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Israel bristles as Norway mandates labels for produce from West Bank, Golan

Oslo says foodstuffs from outside recognized borders ‘must be marked with area from which the product comes’; Jerusalem warns move ‘will negatively impact bilateral ties’

A worker collects olive oil bottles at the Meshek Achiya factory, in the West Bank outpost of Ahiya, on December 14th, 2016. (Sebi Berens/Flash90)
A worker collects olive oil bottles at the Meshek Achiya factory, in the West Bank outpost of Ahiya, on December 14th, 2016. (Sebi Berens/Flash90)

Norway has announced that Israeli agricultural goods coming from the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights must be labeled with their place of origin, drawing a rebuke from Israel.

In a statement announcing the move, the Norwegian foreign ministry noted a 2019 ruling by the European Union’s top court requiring products from these areas to be labeled as originating from an “Israeli settlement.”

“Foodstuffs originating in areas occupied by Israel must be marked with the area from which the product comes, and that it comes from an Israeli settlement if that is the case,” the statement said, “especially wine, olive oil, fruit, vegetables and potatoes.”

“Norway considers the Israeli settlements in the occupied territories to be contrary to international law,” it added.

Norway is not an EU member, but is part of the European Single Market. It is also part of the European Free Trade Association, a four-country organization that inked a free trade deal with Israel in 1992.

Israel’s Foreign Ministry denounced Norway’s decision, saying it “will not contribute to the advancement of ties between Israel and the Palestinians and will negatively impact bilateral ties between Israel and Norway, as well as Norway’s relevance to the promotion of relations between Israel and the Palestinians.”

A Foreign Ministry spokesperson clarified Israel’s stance was “also clear” regarding the Golan Heights and East Jerusalem, but said the West Bank is what is “commercially relevant.” Unlike the West Bank, Israel has annexed both the Golan and East Jerusalem in moves not widely recognized internationally.

Israeli workers inspect barrels in a winery in the West Bank settlement of Psagot, February 11, 2014. (AP Photo/Dan Balilty)

Along with the 2019 court decision, the European Commission — the EU’s executive arm — adopted regulations in 2015 barring the labeling of products from areas it considers occupied by Israel as made in Israel, a decision it attributed to consumers’ right to know the origins of products.

Most European countries do not follow the EU directive, however, though France and Belgium have imposed labeling requirements.

The issue has long been a flashpoint for Israeli diplomacy. Former US president Donald Trump, at the end of his presidency, issued an order requiring products from settlements to be labeled in the US as originating in Israel. Previously, US policy required products made in the West Bank to be labeled as such.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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