'US approves of EU labeling W. Bank products'

Dutch envoy to Israel says US hasn't discouraged initiative to place consumer labels on settlement products.

West bank supermarket, boycott products illustrative 370 (photo credit: REUTERS/Ammar Awad)
West bank supermarket, boycott products illustrative 370
(photo credit: REUTERS/Ammar Awad)
The US has not pressed EU countries to drop any plans they might have to facilitate the placement of consumer labels on West Bank settlement products, according to the Netherlands’ Ambassador to Israel Caspar Veldkamp.
He spoke with reporters at his Herzliya home on Wednesday about Israel’s economic and diplomatic relationship with the Netherlands; but a portion of the conversation dealt with his country’s vocal support for the labeling of West Bank settlement products.
Veldkamp explained that this initiative has wide support in the European Union and even tacit approval from the Americans.
“The United States did not discourage us from this direction,” he said.
The Netherlands’ Ministry of Economic Affairs has already drafted advice for merchants and retailers, including supermarkets that want to mark West Bank settlement products. But it still needs to be approved by a council of ministers.
The draft advice has been put on hold, however, pending the publication of EU legal guidelines on how best to issue such consumer labels.
Last week, the Dutch foreign minister was among 13 of his European counterparts to sign a letter to EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton in support of labeling.
Postal codes already inform EU custom officials as to which products from Israel were made in West Bank settlements.
Goods produced over the pre- 1967 line are not part of the free trade understanding between Israel and the EU. But the consumer label still says, “Made in Israel.” To better inform consumers, at least 13 EU countries now want to clearly mark those products as made in West Bank settlements.
“According to international law and our own legislation, the settlements are not considered part of Israel,” he said.
The push to label West Bank settlement products comes from a belief that the consumer has a right to be informed, and is not part of any boycott initiative, Veldkamp said. He added that the Netherlands has taken a strong stand against boycotts.
Failure to properly label the products would be like marking cheese from Greece as if it was from Denmark, he said, and added in that same way, the label “Made in Israel” should not be placed on West Bank settlement goods.
Already in January, he said, supermarket chains in the Netherlands asked the government for advice on how to place such labels.
But the initial push to label West Bank settlement products, he said, came from the May 2012 meeting of foreign ministers, which stated that, “The EU and its member states reaffirm their commitment to fully and effectively implement existing EU legislation and the bilateral arrangements applicable to settlement products.”
Veldkamp clarified that the foreign ministers in that meeting understood that their countries should now look to facilitate the process of placing consumer labels on settlement products. The EU does not need to take a formal vote on the matter, since EU legislation already exists that would allow states to place such labels, he said.
What needs to happen now is for the EU to clarify what that legislation is, so that the countries apply the labels in a uniform and consistent way, Veldkamp said.
“We prefer to do that together with other European countries and not just to act on our own,” he said. “The EU is becoming impatient with the stagnation in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process,” and with Israel’s continued building over the pre-1967 line.
But this frustration, he said, should not get in the way of the strong ties between his country and Israel.
“Being a friend of Israel does not mean that you always agree with the government position,” he said. “The Netherlands is one of the more Israeli friendly countries in Europe.”
The two countries have very strong trade ties, he said. It comes in second, after the United Kingdom, as an export destination in Europe for Israeli products, he said.
“It is the only EU member state that has blacklisted Hezbollah,” he said, and added that it is pushing others in the EU to do so as well.
Veldkamp also spoke of his country’s concern about Iran’s nuclear drive. The EU should start discussion options for increased sanctions against Iran, he said.