Placing consumer labels on products from West Bank settlements is the equivalent of boycotting Israel, Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely said on Tuesday before she embarked on a trip to European capitals to wage a diplomatic war against the selective singling out of such exports.
“The Foreign Ministry is leading the battle against the idea of labeling,” Hotovely said as she stood outside the Barkan Industrial Park in the Samaria Region of the West Bank.
Senior Israeli diplomatic officials have warned of the imminent publication of European Union legal guidelines that would allow member EU states to place consumer labels on Israeli exports produced over the pre-1967 lines in east Jerusalem, the West Bank and the Golan Heights.
Her message, she said, is very simple. “Boycotting products from Judea and Samaria is a boycott against Israel. We do not see any difference between the industrial area of Barkan and the industrial area of Haifa. I came today to show the world what it really looks like, co-existence,” said Hotovely.
She explained that industrial parks in the West Bank where many of the exports to Europe are produced employ both Israelis and Palestinians who work together in the businesses.
Hotovely said she visited a factory in Barkan where 60 percent of the employees were Palestinians, many of them in management positions.
“When you do labeling you harm 10,000 Palestinian families and you do not do anything to the very strong economic system in Israel,” she said.
Avi Ro’eh who heads the Council of Jewish Communities of Judea and Samaria said that he too believed that the labeling of settlement products was just the first step to a larger boycott of Israel.
Experience has shown that battles that begin in Judea and Samaria spill over into Jerusalem and the rest of the state of Israel, Ro’eh said.
The Judea and Samaria industrial parks are the real life examples of the new Middle East that was spoken about when the Oslo Accords were first put in place in 1993, Ro’eh said.
Anger over the European move crossed the political divide on Tuesday as Opposition leader Issac Herzog (Zionist Union) met with the United Kingdom’s Ambassador to Israel, David Quarrey.
“It’s a process that ensures only one thing,” Herzog said, “the perpetuation of hatred and conflict in the region. Product labeling is a violent act of extremists that only want to make the situation worse, and the European Union has fallen into their trap.”
With this gesture, Europe is awarding a prize for terrorism, Herzog said. “It won’t contribute to the end of the conflict and will only inflict serious economic harm on tens of thousands Palestinians who work in factories in Judea and Samaria in good condition that allow them to support their families,” Herzog said.
His strong support for a two-state solution is well known, Herzog said, “But we won’t get there with measures like these.”