Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the weekly cabinet meeting on Sunday.
(photo credit: AMIT SHABAY/POOL)
Meretz remained defiant after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu requested the party withdraw legislation requiring products from the West Bank be labeled as such.
“The State of Israel is in a battle against attempts to boycott it in the international arena,” Netanyahu said at the opening of Monday’s Likud faction meeting. “I am encouraged by the unity on the Right and Left in the efforts against these boycotts...I am also encouraged that legislation against this phenomenon began to pass in the US, and that will help our international effort.”
The prime minister explained that boycotters “oppose Israel’s existence within any borders and our right, and the right and responsibility of the IDF, to defend ourselves from attacks against us.”
Implying that Meretz is undermining efforts to fight boycotts without mentioning the party’s name, Netanyahu said he was surprised to find that one of the factions in the Knesset proposed a bill to label settlement products and publicly asked that they withdraw it.
“As Israel Prize [for poetry] winner Erez Biton said, ‘whoever starts labeling products will label people in the end,’” Netanyahu quoted.
Meretz proposed last month, as it did in the past two Knessets, that all products be labeled with the city or town in which they were manufactured. The bill is likely to be rejected for a third time.
Despite this, the party refused to withdraw the legislation, saying it clarifies for Israeli consumers “the separation between products made in Israel and those made in the territories it occupied 48 years ago and holds under military rule.”
“The prime minister must really be in trouble if he’s now blaming Meretz,” party chairwoman Zehava Gal-On said. “Next, he’ll make it illegal to draw the Green Line on a map. Once again, he’s trying to avoid the responsibility for the situation Israel is in as a result of his policy and, on the way, is delegitimizing the Israeli Left.”
Gal-On, who does not buy products manufactured in the West Bank, said Israel already labels goods from the West Bank and Golan, due to agreements with the EU and OECD.
“[Netanyahu] is welcome to open negotiations for a final-status agreement and bring the end of the occupation. Until then, he will have to live with the consequences of his destructive policy,” she said.
Also Monday, MK Yinon Magal (Bayit Yehudi) proposed a bill that would prohibit citizens of foreign countries who call for a boycott against Israel from entering the country.
In addition, the legislation would allow the government to block Jews who called for a boycott against Israel from immigrating.