European parliament votes overwhelmingly to highlight West Bank origin of exports

Israel slams EU’s bid to label settlement products

Foreign Ministry says European resolution exhibits ‘sanctimonious hypocrisy’ and tries to force solution to conflict with Palestinians

Tamar Pileggi is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

Illustrative: Members of the EU Parliament take part in a voting session, on December 17, 2014, at the European Parliament in Strasbourg, France. (AFP/Frederick Florin)
Illustrative: Members of the EU Parliament take part in a voting session, on December 17, 2014, at the European Parliament in Strasbourg, France. (AFP/Frederick Florin)

Israel’s Foreign Ministry came out swinging Thursday after the European parliament passed a resolution that advocated a distinction between Israel and its West Bank settlements, and the labeling of settlement produce.

Lawmakers called earlier in the day for the “differentiation between Israel and its activities in the occupied Palestinian Territory,” and encouraged EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini “to take the lead within the Commission with a view to completing the work on EU-wide guidelines on the labeling of Israeli settlement produce.”

The Foreign Ministry lashed out against the EU in a scathing response to the motion, saying, “The State of Israel takes the parliament’s decision seriously, in particular the call for labeling products. The process of labeling is discriminatory, and reeks of boycott.

“Under the guise of a technical procedure, it’s an attempt to force a diplomatic solution, instead of encouraging the Palestinians to return to negotiations,” a Foreign Ministry spokesperson said. “Europe treats Israel with sanctimonious hypocrisy, while it doesn’t raise the issue of similar solutions in Northern Cyprus and Western Sahara.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also weighed in, calling the EU parliament’s decision “unjust.”

“It is simply a distortion of justice and of logic and I think that it also hurts peace; it does not advance peace,” he said in a statement. “The root of the conflict is not the territories, and the root of the conflict is not the settlements. We have historical memory of what happened when Europe labelled Jewish products.”

European parliamentarians also called on Mogherini and EU Special Representative Fernando Gentilini to promote a two-state solution within the framework of the Arab Peace Initiative, and said individual member nations needed to play a greater political role in the peace process.

Peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians broke down in April 2014, and few efforts have been made publicly to restart negotiations.

The resolution stressed that the rights of Israeli and Palestinian civilians were the immediate priority, and noted the dire humanitarian crisis resulting from the slow pace of the Gaza Strip’s reconstruction in the wake of last summer’s devastating war there.

“Preserving the viability of the two-state solution through concrete action and ensuring full respect for the rights of civilians on both sides must be an immediate priority for the EU and the international community,” the resolution said.

It further called the reconstruction of Gaza a humanitarian aid priority for the EU and the international community, and urged donor nations to honor their pledges to the cash-strapped United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East.

The text also expressed support for reactivating the now defunct EU Border Assistance Mission EUBAM at Gaza’s Rafah crossing with Egypt “with a more ambitious mandate and adequate means” in order to take a “concrete role” in the control of the border.

The resolution was passed by 525 votes to 70, with 31 abstentions.

Last week, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon invited Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia to a meeting later this month of the Middle East Quartet seeking a diplomatic solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The invitation follows a decision by the Quartet in February to include Arab countries in the diplomatic effort to restart the peace process between Israel and the Palestinians. Mogherini said the EU had “revitalized the work of the Quartet” and voiced hope that this could help “re-open prospective and political horizons to the talks.”

The 2002 Arab Peace Initiative calls for an Israeli withdrawal from the Palestinian territories in exchange for full normalization of ties between Israel and the Arab world.

AFP and Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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