Products produced over the pre-1967 lines are not “made in Israel” and cannot be labeled that way, European Union Ambassador to Israel Lars Faaborg-Andersen said on Tuesday.
He spoke to The Jerusalem Post in defense of the pending publication of guidelines to enable member states to place consumer labels on exports from east Jerusalem, the West Bank and the Golan Heights.
“The EU position is that we do not recognize Israeli authority beyond the Green Line. It is not part of Israel. It is not part of what we understand to be Israel’s international recognized borders,” said Faaborg-Andersen in a telephone interview.
“For that reason we cannot agree that products that come from settlements beyond the Green Line are labeled ‘made in Israel.’” Faaborg-Andersen will be one of the featured speakers at the fourth Jerusalem Post Diplomatic Conference in Jerusalem on November 18.
An Israeli diplomatic official warned on Monday that the EU settlement- abeling guidelines might be published in the coming weeks, possibly even in the next few days.
Hotovely: labeling is boycotting IsraelDeputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely
was set to embark Wednesday on a trip to European capitals to wage a diplomatic war against the selective singling out of Israeli products from over the pre- 1967 lines.
“The Foreign Ministry is leading the battle against the idea of labeling,” Hotovely said, speaking outside the Barkan Industrial Park in the Samaria Region of the West Bank on Tuesday after visiting a factory where Israelis and Palestinians work together.
Her message to European officials is simple, she told the Post.
“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,” Hotovely said. “This is a delegitimization of the state of Israel.”
She added that the country is united in opposition to the consumer labeling. Parties from both the coalition and the opposition are up in arms, she said.
An Israeli official added that labeling products doesn’t help the Palestinians and would make it more difficult to jump-start the peace process, which has been frozen since April 2014.
It doesn’t give the Palestinians any incentive to negotiate, the official said. Why should the Palestinians negotiate with Israel if they believe the international community is going to increase pressure on Israel?” the official asked.
The only path to peace is through negotiations, he said.
Israel has urged the Palestinians to resume talks without preconditions, but the Palestinian have insisted that Israel must first agree to demands such as freezing all “settlement activity” and Jewish building in east Jerusalem before they will consider negotiations.
Israel has refused to accede to such demands, maintaining that settlement building is not a stumbling block to peace.
But on Tuesday, Faaborg-Andersen said that the European Union differs from Israel on this point and believes that settlement building has made it difficult to resume negotiations.
The “expansion of the settlement enterprise has had a negative effect on the peace process,” the EU ambassador claimed. “We do not expect the Israeli side to make peace on its own. We understand that it takes two to make peace.
There also needs to be a will on the Palestinian side. We do not want to criticize Israel for not being able to pull that off alone,” Faaborg-Andersen said.
“What we require is that both parties refrain from taking steps that undermine the peace effort. We have believed for a long time that expansion of settlements falls into that category,” he said.
Like other EU officials, he downplayed the significance of the labeling, which he said is merely a technical issue based on decisions made over a decade ago.
Already in 2003, the EU exempted settlement products from its free trade agreement with Israel, said Faaborg-Andersen.
Israel agreed to place a code on its exports that allowed European customs officials to see whether the product was produced within or beyond the Green Line, he said.
That was when the real decision was made. This new labeling requirement just gives the consumer that same information, Faaborg-Andersen said. “This issue was really decided back then. What we have now is an addition to it.”
The guidelines were also an outgrowth of a 2012 meeting of foreign ministers at which it was agreed that regulations with respect to labeling settlement products must be “scrupulously implemented.”
The guidelines, he said, are a compilation of existing legislation, so that member states can understand what steps they must take. The legislation is complicated and varies according to the product. In some cases it may be obligatory on all states, while it other cases it will be up to member states.
He said that Brussels has almost finished with the guidelines.
“We see this as a technical matter, ensuring that EU legislation is applied in a correct and comprehensive fashion,” he said.
The growth of the settlement enterprise necessitated the need for the guidelines, he asserted. As the settlement enterprise grew, so did the quantity of products it produced.
When the settlements were smaller and there were few products, it was less of an issue he said. “As this enterprise has picked up, obviously the issue also comes more to the fore.”
But Avi Ro’eh, who heads the Council of Jewish Communities of Judea and Samaria, warned that the labeling of settlement products is just the first step to a larger boycott of Israel. He spoke with Hotovely about the matter when he met with her at the Barkan Industrial Park on Tuesday.
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.
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, he said.
He 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.
Hotovely said she visited a factory in Barkan where 60 percent of the employees were Palestinians – many of them in management positions.
“When you impose labeling, you harm 10,000 Palestinian families, but you do not do anything significant to the very strong economic system in Israel,” she 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 – the perpetuation of hatred and conflict in the region. Product labeling is an act encouraging violent extremists who only want to make the situation worse; the European Union has fallen into their trap,” Herzog said.
With this gesture, Europe is awarding a prize for terrorism, Herzog added.
“It won’t contribute to the end of the conflict and will only inflict serious economic harm on tens of thousands Palestinians whose work in factories in Judea and Samaria enables them to support their families,” Herzog said.
His strong support for a two-state solution is well-known, Herzog noted, “but we won’t get there with measures like these."