Netanyahu cancels meet with Belgian FM ‘over settlement labeling’ — report

Brussels announces indefinite postponement of Didier Reynders’s upcoming visit to Israel and Palestinian territories

Belgian Foreign Minister Didier Reynders on November 26, 2015. (AFP PHOTO / BELGA PHOTO / LAURIE DIEFFEMBACQ)
Belgian Foreign Minister Didier Reynders on November 26, 2015. (AFP PHOTO / BELGA PHOTO / LAURIE DIEFFEMBACQ)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu canceled a meeting with Belgium’s foreign minister because of Brussels’ support for labeling Israeli products from over the Green Line, Channel 10 reported Tuesday.

Shortly afterwards, Belgian Foreign Minister Didier Reynders on Tuesday announced he would indefinitely postpone his upcoming visit to Israel and the Palestinian territories following Netanyahu’s announcement earlier this week to suspend the European Union’s role in the peace process over the labelling of settlement goods.

Reynders was slated to visit from December 5 to 8.

“Following the decision by the Prime Minister of Israel Mr. Netanyahu to suspend contacts with the European Union on the Middle East peace process, and considering the impact of this decision on the program of the visit of Didier Reynders, the latter confirmed this Tuesday morning to the Ambassador of Israel in Belgium his decision to postpone his visit to a later date,” the Belgian Foreign Ministry said in a statement Tuesday night.

“He also regrets having to postpone his contacts with his Palestinian interlocutors,” the statement read.

Netanyahu’s office said the cancelation of the meeting was due to scheduling.

“Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Netanyahu didn’t cancel the meeting because it wasn’t set due to scheduling problems,” the Prime Minister’s Office said in a statement.

Officials in Jerusalem told Channel 10, however, that the decision to nix the meeting with the Belgian diplomat came in response to Belgium’s central role in supporting the EU’s decision to label settlement products.

Earlier this week, Netanyahu said Jerusalem would suspend all ties with the EU vis-a-vis the peace process over its decision to label Israeli goods produced over the Green Line. The EU responded Monday saying it would maintain its role in the efforts to broker a peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians.

Netanyahu’s suspension was a response to an EU directive to all its member states to begin labeling Israeli goods manufactured in the West Bank. East Jerusalem and Golan Heights as originating in settlements. Israeli officials have slammed the move as amounting to a boycott.

Despite Israel’s announcement that it was freezing dialogue on the peace process, the European body’s spokesperson noted that “EU-Israel relations are good, broad and deep, and this will continue.”

AFP contributed to this report.

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