Labeling products made in West Bank settlements is consumer protectionism,
European Union Ambassador to Israel Andrew Standley told reporters in Jerusalem
on Wednesday, as he defended the measure against charges that it amounted to a
“This is a consumer protection issue first and foremost,”
“Consumers should have the confidence that what they buy
is correctly labeled, according to existing EU rules.”
The European Union
is working on legal guidelines to help member states looking to place consumer
labels on West Bank products understand how to make use of already existing
Israel opposes such labeling, which it says unfairly singles
out these products.
Opponents of the measure have charged that it is a
form of boycott. The products are already marked with codes that alert European
customs officials not to include them in the tariff-free trade understanding
“It is important to emphasize that, indeed, it is not a
boycott,” Standley said. “At no time, at no stage, has anyone called for
settlement products to be prohibited from entering the EU.”
He added that
proper labeling can combat boycotts of Israeli products by people who fear that
they are actually from West Bank settlements.
European Jewish Congress
president Moshe Kantor sent a letter this week to all EU member states asking
them not to label the settlement products.
This is a discriminatory
action that diverts attention away from the peace process, he wrote, adding that
it also harms Palestinian workers employed by many of these companies.
is concerning, Kantor noted, that the EU can unite to act against Israel on the
issue of West Bank settlements but has failed to find consensus on classifying
Hezbollah as a terrorist organization.
“While there is a consensus and
movement on the labeling issue, there appears to be little movement on the goal
of proscribing Hezbollah as a terrorist organization within the European Union,”
Standley explained that, with 27 diverse nations, it was hard
to find unity on the topic. He noted that it was possible to find consensus on
the issue of labeling West Bank settlement products, because the legislation
already exists and does not need a vote.
“At the political level, what
has happened is that twice during the course of 2012, the EU foreign ministers
drew attention to the urgent need to ensure that existing EU rules and
legislation on consumer protection, the labeling of products, should be
implemented correctly,” Standley said.
“It has been given additional
political prominence by the fact that the foreign ministers of the EU member
states have twice in 2012 called for this issue to be urgently and immediately
On the larger issue of the stalled Israeli-Palestinian
peace process, Standley said he was hopeful that US Secretary of State John
Kerry, who arrived in Israel on Thursday for his fifth visit in three months,
will be able to rekindle the talks, which have been largely frozen since
The EU supports Kerry’s efforts, Standley
“Not only has the EU expressed its clear political support
publicly, but also in its [private] contact with the Israeli and Palestinian
sides,” he added.
“That has also been accompanied by the continuation of
significant levels of economic assistance provided by the EU, which are a key
element in creating conditions, especially on the Palestinian side in terms of
institution-building,” Standley continued.
“We are hopeful that the hard
work and all the time that has been invested by Secretary Kerry over the past
few weeks and months will bear its fruits in the coming days.”