European Union flags.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
The European Union is expected to publish in the next few weeks its long anticipated guidelines on the consumer labeling of Israeli products produced over the pre-1967 lines – in east Jerusalem, the West Bank and the Golan Heights.
The impending EU labeling of what it calls “settlement products” has been a contentious issue between Brussels and Jerusalem since 2012.
Monday night an Israeli diplomat said, “We expect the guidelines to be published soon, possibly within days.”
The official added, “We’re trying to convince the European Union and its member states that this is a mistake. It has an element of discrimination to it and does not in any way help the diplomatic process.”
Israel took issue with the publication of the guidelines at time when the Palestinian leadership refuses to hold direct talks with Israel and during a period in which, since October 1, Palestinian assailants have killed 11 Israelis and wounded more than 100 in a series of some 60 attacks.
“If anything, the publication of these guidelines now gives the Palestinians a prize for their terrorism and obstinacy. It also supports the overall atmosphere of Israeli boycotts,” the official said.
The guidelines, to be published out of Brussels under the guidance of the EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini, do not need to be put to a vote.
The document simply puts together already existing guidelines and legislation with regard to “settlement products.” It is designed to help EU member states understand what the law is with regard to the labeling of such products.
The EU considers Jewish communities over the pre- 1967 lines in east Jerusalem, the Golan Heights and the West Bank to be illegal under international law.
For over a decade, Israeli products produced over the pre-1967 lines have been exempt from Israel’s free trade agreement with the EU. Codes have been placed on the products to allow EU custom officials to properly determine if the products were produced within the Green Line or over it.
These guidelines would provide European consumers in stores with that same information.
Under pressure from the United States, the EU backed away from its push to publish the settlement guidelines during the nine-month negotiations period brokered by US Secretary of State John Kerry that ended without any results in April 2014.
Since then the peace process has been frozen. All attempts to bring the two sides together have failed.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has called on Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to resume direct talks immediately without any preconditions.
Abbas has refused to hold such talks unless Israel agrees to withdraw to the pre-1967 lines and to stop all Jewish building in east Jerusalem and the West Bank.
In the absence of any peace process member states have pushed Mogherini to move forward with the publication of the guidelines.
Last week Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’ visit to Mogherini in Brussels and spoke to her about the danger settlement building poses any possibly of a two-state solution.
Israel has longed claimed that settlement building is not a stumbling block to peace and that the main issue is the Palestinian refusal to recognize that Israel is the homeland for the Jewish people.
When Netanyahu met with Mogherini on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in New York at the start of October, he said, that for many Israelis product labeling recalls dark days in Europe. He warned that such action also hardens Israeli domestic opinion.
On Tuesday, Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely is expected to head to the Barkan Industrial Park in the Samaria region of the West Bank to speak against settlement product labeling.
On Sunday, Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein attacked the overall issue of boycotting settlement products at a Knesset meeting with Samaria Regional Council head Yossi Dagan and a visiting delegation of Italian Jews.
Edelstein, like many other Israeli politicians believes that boycotting settlement products will lead to a general boycott of Israel.
“This boycott drives me crazy,” Edelstein said. “It is totally un-proportional. It is not a real danger to the Israeli economy, but you know, one of the things I really hate is hypocrites.
“I have never seen a person throw away an iPhone because he or she wants to boycott Israel. I have never seen anyone wanting to throwaway a laptop, because they want to boycott Israel,” Edelstein said.
“Nothing damages Palestinian families more than boycotting products produced in Barkan or all these industrial zones [in Judea and Samaria],” Edelstein said.