US begins to label settlement products as ‘Made in Israel’

Policy shift was announced by Pompeo during unprecedented recent visit to a West Bank winery; unclear if Biden administration will uphold it

Israeli winemaker Yaakov Berg holds a bottle of his red blend named after US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo at the Psagot Winery in the Sha'ar Binyamin industrial park near the Psagot settlement in the West Bank, north of Jerusalem on November 18, 2020. (Emmanuel DUNAND / AFP)
Israeli winemaker Yaakov Berg holds a bottle of his red blend named after US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo at the Psagot Winery in the Sha'ar Binyamin industrial park near the Psagot settlement in the West Bank, north of Jerusalem on November 18, 2020. (Emmanuel DUNAND / AFP)

US Customs and Border Protection on Wednesday said an order requiring goods made in Israeli-controlled areas of the West Bank to be labeled as “Made in Israel” has come into effect.

The policy shift was announced by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in November following an unprecedented visit to a West Bank settlement, where he visited a winery. It’s unclear whether the incoming Biden administration will uphold the order.

Since 1995, US policy has required products made in the West Bank and Gaza to be labeled as such. That directive was republished in 2016 by the Obama administration, which warned that labeling goods as “made in Israel” could lead to fines. Prior to the Oslo Accords, however, all products manufactured in these areas were required to mention Israel in their label when exporting to the United States.

With Pompeo’s newly announced rules, which he said were “consistent with our reality-based foreign policy approach,” all producers within areas where Israel exercises authority — most notably Area C under the Oslo Accords – will be required to mark goods as Israeli-made.

“This document notifies the public that, for country of origin marking purposes, imported goods produced in the West Bank, specifically in Area C under the Israeli-Palestinian Interim Agreement (the Oslo Accords), signed on September 28, 1995, and the area known as ‘H2’ under the Israeli-Palestinian Protocol Concerning Redeployment in Hebron and Related Documents (the Hebron Protocol), signed January 17, 1997, must be marked to indicate their origin as ‘Israel,’ ‘Product of Israel,’ or ‘Made in Israel,'” the US Customs notice said.

Goods manufactured in Palestinian-controlled areas of the West Bank will be marked as made in the West Bank, while Gaza-produced items must indicate they were made in the Palestinian coastal enclave, the order added, rejecting any joint “West Bank/Gaza” labels that had been permitted since 1997.

The new guidelines were effective as of Wednesday, though importers were given a 90-day grace period to implement the changes.

The announcement indicated that the policy would also cover goods made in Palestinian villages within Area C, where Israel exercises both civilian and security control. Roughly 150,000 Palestinians are believed to live in Area C, which includes all Israeli settlements and covers about 60 percent of the West Bank’s land area.

The statement from Pompeo last month said the new policy “recognizes that Area C producers operate within the economic and administrative framework of Israel and their goods should be treated accordingly.”

Pompeo has said it would “eliminate the confusion” that may have been caused by the old policy, which in labeling all West Bank exports as having been made there, did not differentiate whether the producers were Israeli or Palestinian.

“We will no longer accept ’West Bank/Gaza’ or similar markings, in recognition that Gaza and the West Bank are politically and administratively separate and should be treated accordingly,” the State Department announcement last month said.

At the time, Pompeo insisted that the US still remains committed to achieving “sustainable peace” and will “continue to oppose those countries and international institutions which delegitimize or penalize Israel and Israeli producers in the West Bank through malicious measures that fail to recognize the reality on the ground.”

The concluding remark of the statement appeared to take a direct shot at the European Union, which has led a policy obliging all 28 member states to label exports produced in Israeli towns beyond the Green Line as having been made in the settlements.


US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo (c), his wife Susan, and US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman at the City of David in Jerusalem on November 18, 2020 (Matty Stern/U.S. Embassy Jerusalem)

The new US doctrine appears to fall in line with existing Israeli policy, which similarly does not differentiate between goods produced on either side of the Green Line.

The vast majority of the international community views Israeli settlements as illegal, but the Trump administration has taken several steps to shift US policy on the matter. Last year, Pompeo repudiated a 1978 State Department legal opinion maintaining that civilian settlements in the Palestinian territories are “inconsistent with international law.”

Earlier this year, US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu signed an agreement removing all previous geographic restrictions from their scientific cooperation.

The doctrine appears to clash with the views of US President-elect Joe Biden, who has long been a critic of Israeli settlement expansion, saying it places the viability of a two-state solution at risk. Biden has also spoken out against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s plan to annex parts of the West Bank under the Trump peace proposal, which in any case has been shelved as part of Israel’s normalization deal with the UAE.

The Palestinians have strongly condemned the US shift on settlement labeling.

Palestinians protest against an expected visit of US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to the Jewish settlement of Psagot near the West Bank city of Al-Bireh, Nov. 18, 2020 (AP Photo/Majdi Mohammed)

Pompeo earlier on his Israel trip announced another new policy, stating that from now on Washington would designate as “anti-Semitic” the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign, which seeks to isolate Israel over its treatment of the Palestinians, and would take practical steps against BDS groups.

Pompeo’s visit to the Psagot winery in the central West Bank was the first time a US secretary of state had visited an Israeli settlement. Pompeo later made his way to the Golan Heights for the first visit to the plateau by a top US diplomat since Washington recognized Israeli sovereignty over the Golan last year.

Netanyahu thanked Pompeo at the time for his “unwavering support” of Israel, first as CIA director and then as secretary of state, saying that under US President Donald Trump the US-Israeli relationship had “reached unprecedented heights.”

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