Israel’s prime minister, the foreign ministry and politicians across the political spectrum condemned the European Union’s decision to label Israeli products from beyond the pre-1967 borders as discriminatory and harmful to peace efforts.
Israel “condemns the decision of the European Union (EU) to label Israeli products originating from areas that are under Israeli control since 1967. We regret that the EU has chosen, for political reasons, to take such an exceptional and discriminatory step, inspired by the boycott movement, particularly at this time, when Israel is confronting a wave of terrorism targeting any and all of its citizens,” a statement issued Wednesday by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs read.
On Wednesday, the EU executive approved the labeling of Israeli products originating from areas beyond the pre-1967 borders, a move that has been contested by the Israeli government and the Opposition as well as by US lawmakers.
The European Commission “adopted this morning the Interpretative Notice on indication of origin of goods from the territories occupied by Israel since June 1967,” an EU official stated.
A group of US House members and senators had sent official letters to the EU in an attempt to discourage the move.
“I harshly oppose this harmful and superfluous move. It serves only one purpose, the continuation of hate and conflict in the area. Labeling products is a violent act of extremists who want to worsen the situation here even more, and the EU is falling in the trap that they have set,” Opposition leader Isaac Herzog, head of the Zionist Union party, said last week, following a meeting in which he discussed the matter with British Ambassador to Israel David Quarrey.
Netanyahu: ‘The EU Should be Ashamed’
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, currently in Washington, declared: “The EU decision is hypocritical and constitutes a double standard; it singles out Israel and not the 200 other conflicts around the world. The EU has decided to label only Israel, and we are not prepared to accept the fact that Europe is labeling the side that is being attacked by terrorism. The Israeli economy is strong and will withstand this; those who will be hurt will be those Palestinians who work in Israeli factories. The EU should be ashamed.”
Member of Knesset Yair Lapid, head of the Yesh Atid party, blasted the EU decision in a letter to the ambassadors of the member countries, saying the move was anti-Semitic and strengthen terrorism against the Jewish state.
EU Commission Vice-President Valdis Dombrovskis insisted the measure was “a technical issue, not a political stance.”
He said the guidelines had to be taken after three member states — Britain, Belgium and Denmark — already had imposed special labeling on their own, forcing the EU to streamline measures throughout the 28 nations.
“The EU does not support in any form a boycott or sanctions against Israel,” he said, insisting that Israeli products from within the internationally recognized borders still benefit from EU preferential tariff treatment.
However, Israel insists the step was inspired by an international boycott movement against Israel and noted that it comes at a time when the country is confronting a “wave of terrorism” amid stepped-up Palestinian attacks.
Palestinian Leader Celebrates EU Stand
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas praised the EU decision.
“I highly appreciate what the EU countries did on the products of the Israeli colonial settlements,” he said, speaking in Saudi Arabia on Wednesday where he was attending a summit of Arab and South American countries. He urged other participants to also welcome the EU move.
But Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs wasn’t impressed by the EU decision.
“It is puzzling and even irritating that the EU chooses to apply a double standard concerning Israel, while ignoring that there are over 200 other territorial disputes worldwide, including those occurring within the EU or on its doorstep. The claim that this is a technical matter is cynical and baseless,” the Foreign Ministry stated. “Product labeling does not advance any political process between Israel and the Palestinians. The opposite is the case – it is bound to reinforce the PA’s refusal to conduct direct negotiations with Israel, negotiations that the EU claims to support. Product labeling will strengthen the radical elements advocating a boycott against Israel and denying Israel’s right to exist, contradicting positions that the EU publicly opposes. This recent step raises questions regarding the role that the EU aspires to play. It may also have implications for Israel-EU relations.”
“This is extremely grave,” Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked of the Jewish Home party told IDF Radio on Wednesday. “We are at this time examining what tools we have to fight this. I, as justice minister, am examining the legal tools.”
By: Terri Nir, United with Israel Staff
(With files from AP)
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