Dutch parliament passes motion against mandatory labeling of settlement products

Coalition-approved decision calls on government to object to EU court’s ruling as discriminatory, unless similar standards are applied to all disputed territories around the world

The Binnenhof, the seat of the Dutch government, in The Hague, Netherlands, in 2014 (AP Photo/Phil Nijhuis)
The Binnenhof, the seat of the Dutch government, in The Hague, Netherlands, in 2014 (AP Photo/Phil Nijhuis)

The Dutch parliament on Tuesday approved a motion pushing back against a European Court of Justice decision that ordered the labeling of Israeli goods made in West Bank settlements.

The motion, approved 82-68, calls on the government to object to the ruling, unless similar standards are applied to all disputed territories around the world. It deems the singling out of Israel in such regard unfair and discriminatory.

Israel has heavily criticized the the court’s ruling last week, calling it discriminatory and noting that there are more than 200 territorial disputes across the world, but that the European court had never ruled on any of them.

The Dutch vote, supported by Christian groups in parliament and backed by the governing coalition, does not compel the government to act and is largely symbolic. However, diplomatic officials told the Ynet news site that the strong support from the coalition indicated it would guide government policy to an extent.

Israeli Ambassador to the Netherlands Naor Gilon thanked legislators for their support and expressed hope that if the court ruling stands, Dutch leaders “will adopt their own recommendation and not implement a discriminatory resolution.”

An Israeli diplomatic official told the Israel Hayom newspaper that Jerusalem hoped other European countries would follow the Dutch lead and question the court ruling.

According to the Luxembourg-based court, the EU’s highest legal instance, “Foodstuffs originating in the territories occupied by the State of Israel must bear the indication of their territory of origin, accompanied, where those foodstuffs come from an Israeli settlement within that territory, by the indication of that provenance.”

The court took on the case after Psagot Winery — which is located in a settlement by the same name just north of Jerusalem — challenged a 2016 ruling by a French court that said goods produced in the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights must be labeled as originating in an “Israeli settlement.”

The Israeli government had urged Psagot to withdraw its appeal, positing that EU member states were not widely enforcing Brussels’s labeling policy, and warning that the European Court of Justice was likely to affirm that the hitherto largely ignored practice was mandatory, thus causing unnecessary problems to Israeli exporters.

Israel Katz attends the weekly cabinet meeting at the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem on February 17, 2019. (Sebastian Scheiner/Pool/AFP)

In their decision, the 15 judges wrote that it was necessary to label Israeli settlement goods as such “to prevent consumers from being misled as to the fact that the State of Israel is present in the territories concerned as an occupying power and not as a sovereign entity.”

Following the decision Foreign Minister Israel Katz denounced it as “unacceptable both morally and in principle,” and vowed to work with his colleagues in the EU “to prevent the implementation of this gravely flawed policy.” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called it “unbelievable.” Knesset speaker Yuli Edelstein warned it could seriously hurt ties between Israel and the European Union.

Other government officials echoed the condemnation.

PLO secretary general Saeb Erekat addresses the media following a meeting with diplomats in the West Bank city of Ramallah on January 30, 2019. (Abbas Momani/AFP)

Palestinian officials welcomed the court’s ruling, and urged European countries to implement “what is a legal and political obligation,” senior Palestine Liberation Organization official Saeb Erekat said in a statement.

“Our demand is not only for the correct labeling reflecting the certificate of origin of products coming from illegal colonial-settlements, but for the banning of those products from international markets,” he added.

The EU stressed that it was not banning settlement goods and opposes boycotts and sanctions against Israel.

Raphael Ahren contributed to this report.

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