The European Union's executive approved on Wednesday new guidelines for labeling products from Israeli settlements on occupied land, a decision Brussels says is technical but which many in Israel say is unacceptable discrimination.
The European Commission "adopted this morning the Interpretative Notice on indication of origin of goods from the territories occupied by Israel since June 1967," said an EU official.
The guidelines have been in the works since 2012.The EU has consistently downplayed the impact of the guidelines
as a technical matter. A commission spokesman said they would simply “ensure the uniform application of the rules concerning the indication of origin of Israeli settlement products. The aim is to ensure effective implementation of existing EU legislation.”
Since 2003, the EU has placed a numerical code on Israeli imports to allow customs to distinguish between products made within the Green Line and those that are produced beyond it.
Products produced in east Jerusalem, the Golan Heights and the West Bank are excluded from the Israel Free Trade agreement with the EU.
The guidelines extend that process one step further, providing member states legal instructions as to the placement of consumer labels on relevant products to inform European consumers that they are not made in Israel.
The EU had delayed the publication of the guidelines in 2013 at the request of the US, which at the time was brokering a nine-month negotiation process between Israel and the Palestinians. That process failed in April 2014 and no new initiatives have replaced it. In the absence of any prospect of renewed negotiations, the EU is pressing forward with the consumer labels.
“There is no doubt that the main purpose of the measure is to exert political pressure upon Israel,” said the Foreign Ministry.
“As the preparation of the labeling guidelines has been pending for more than three years, the recent steps beg the question why the EU decided that it should be done now.
“These measures are discriminatory in nature. It is intolerable that Israel is the only country that has been singled out by the EU for such a policy, despite the fact that there are over 200 disputed territories worldwide,” the Foreign Ministry said.
The ministry warned that the guidelines “constitute an attempt to prejudge the outcome of future negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians. Worse, they could serve as an additional incentive for the PA to eschew direct negotiations with Israel.”