Legal loopholes could allow EU ban of settlement goods

Jordan Valley council chief says that even without an official ban, the farmers in his region are having a hard time selling many of their products to Europe.

Anti-Israel demonstration in Jordan (photo credit: REUTERS)
Anti-Israel demonstration in Jordan
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Small technicalities in European Union legislation, if fully applied to Israel, could allow for a ban of settlement products, an official in the Foreign Ministry warned this weekend.
He spoke as his ministry, along with the Agriculture Ministry and Economy Ministry, seek a solution to the EU’s refusal to accept Israeli exports of meat, poultry, fish and dairy products from areas over the pre-1967 lines, including the West Bank, the Golan Heights and east Jerusalem.
The EU already labels such products for custom officials, as products from over the pre-1967 lines are not part of its free-trade understanding with Israel.
But there is no ban on the sale of settlement products in the EU. Earlier this year, however, the European Commission told Israel that it did not recognize the authority of inspection agencies over the pre-1967 lines. Since the products can not be inspected, they can not be sold in the EU.
To ensure the continued sale of Israeli meat, poultry, fish and dairy products in the EU, the commission has asked Israel to put in place a system by September 1 to exclude any such products from over the pre-1967 lines.
The Agriculture Ministry told dairy farms and factories that it plans to comply with this edict, even as it works to sway the EU to repeal it.
The letter the ministry sent them was published on Friday by Ben Caspit in the Hebrew daily Ma’ariv.
A diplomatic source said the edict was specific to this issue and was not the start of a larger tactical strategy to ban settlement products in Europe.
But a Foreign Ministry official said that it was “a technical step, with far reaching consequences.”
“They managed to pull this one out and they will probably try and adopt other types of regulations that go the same way and will aim other type of products,” the official said.
The problem, the official said, is that “it would take a political decision to change this new regulation and do you think that any constellation of European ministers will give that instruction.”
He warned that the same strategy could be used to ban other settlement products from sale in the EU. If that happens, he said, “the result will be tantamount to a total prohibition of goods produced beyond the green line in Europe.”
The Council of Jewish Communities of Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip had not commented on the matter.
But David Elhayani, who heads the Jordan Valley Regional Council, said that even without an official ban, the farmers in his region are having a hard time selling many of their products to Europe.
As he result, he said, they have sought other markets, partially by necessity and partially by choice.
The EU focus on settlement products “is anti-Semitic,” Elhayani charged.
At the moment, he said, the farms also want to boycott Europe, adding that they have found alternative markets for their products, such as Russia.
In the Jordan Valley, “95 percent of the peppers are sold to Russia. Our spices are also going to Russia,” he said.
The only exception is dates, Elhayani said, where “60% of the Medjool dates that are exported to Europe come from the Jordan Valley.”