Republican senators urge Trump to label settlement goods as ‘Made in Israel’

Lawmakers say move would ‘push back against anti-Semitism and BDS movement,’ prevent future administrations from differentiating between Israel and West Bank

Jacob Magid is The Times of Israel's US bureau chief

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

NEW YORK — A group of Republican senators sent a letter to US President Donald Trump urging him to alter US policy that differentiates between products manufactured on either side of the Green Line and instead allow West Bank settlement goods to be branded as having been “made in Israel.”

“This decision would be yet another achievement by your administration that would support Israel and would push back against anti-Semitism and the Boycott Divestment and Sanctions movement,” wrote Senators Tom Cotton, Marco Rubio, Kelly Loeffler and Ted Cruz in a letter sent Monday.

It has been longstanding US policy since 1967 to differentiate between Israel and the territories it conquered in the Six Day War. A 1995 Treasury Department guidance requiring goods from the West Bank or Gaza Strip to be labeled as such still remains in place today. The directive was republished in 2016 by the Obama administration, which warned that labeling goods as “made in Israel” could lead to fines.

Israel withdrew from Gaza in 2005.

“While it is our understanding that this labeling policy is not enforced by US authorities, we are concerned that a future administration could choose to enforce these rules and thereby differentiate Israeli goods produced in Judea and Samaria, making them prime targets for BDS boycotts,” the senators wrote, referring to the West Bank by its biblical name.

President Donald Trump, flanked by Sen. Tom Cotton, R- Ark., left, and Sen. David Perdue, R-Ga., speaks in the Roosevelt Room of the White House in Washington, Wednesday, Aug. 2, 2017, during the unveiling of legislation that would place new limits on legal immigration. (AP/Evan Vucci)

They added that the policy change would be an appropriate response to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights publishing of a “blacklist” of over 100 firms operating in the settlements.

“Your administration should continue its string of pro-Israel policy changes by undoing these misguided Clinton-era guidelines,” the senators added.

Cotton had sought to pass legislation mandating the policy change in 2016, but it failed to garner support in Congress.

The Trump administration has already recognized Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights, which Israel captured from Syria in 1967.

The policy change demanded by the senators would be consistent with an agreement signed by the US and Israel earlier this month that removed all previous geographic restrictions from their scientific cooperation, a move viewed by some as a first step toward possible American recognition of Israeli sovereignty over the West Bank.

Mike Pompeo is slated to become the first secretary of state to visit a settlement on Thursday when, according to the Axios news site, he will make a stop at the Psagot winery which unveiled a bottle of wine in his honor after he repudiated last year a 1978 State Department legal opinion maintaining that civilian settlements in the occupied territories are “inconsistent with international law.”

The Trump administration also unveiled a peace plan in January that envisions Israel annexing all Israeli settlements and while the White House has refrained from giving its blessing for Jerusalem to carry out the move just yet against the backdrop of the recently signed normalization accord with the UAE, US officials have emphasized that they are principally in support of the controversial move.

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