Misguided labeling

What they meant was that “Made in Israel” should be reserved for goods produced inside the Green Line so European consumers can tell the difference.

Jimmy carter smiling from couch 370 (photo credit: REUTERS)
Jimmy carter smiling from couch 370
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Whether it is wine from the Golan Heights, pretzels from Ariel or cosmetics from the Dead Sea, the European Union is targeting goods produced beyond the Green Line. In December, the EU’s Foreign Affairs Council reiterated its “commitment to ensure continued, full and effective implementation of existing EU legislation and bilateral arrangements applicable to settlement products.”
What they meant was that “Made in Israel” should be reserved for goods produced inside the Green Line so European consumers can tell the difference.
Last month, ministers from Spain, Portugal, France, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Denmark, Finland, the Netherlands, Belgium, Austria, Slovenia, Luxembourg and Malta signed a letter addressed to EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton reaffirming their support for labeling products originating in cities, towns or industrial parks located in Judea and Samaria. These 13 countries make up nearly half of the 27 EU member states.
Former US president Jimmy Carter, speaking in the name of The Elders, a group of former statesmen who seek to promote peace across the globe, called on the EU to “clearly label products made in Israeli settlements.”
Thanks to the intervention of US Secretary of State John Kerry, the EU has reportedly agreed to delay moving ahead with the labeling measure, which was slated to be voted on during an EU foreign affairs meeting this week. But the EU will likely raise the issue again as a means of putting pressure on Israel to expedite a peace agreement with the Palestinians.
According to estimates by Der Spiegel, businesses situated beyond the Green Line export some NIS 1.1 billion of goods to EU member countries annually. The Americans have reportedly argued that the labeling would complicate renewed US and EU efforts to broker a peace deal between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.
We would like to add a few reasons of our own showing labeling is a misguided notion.
First, the underlying assumption behind labeling is that Israel alone should be held responsible and punished for the stalled peace process, while Palestinian responsibility (intransigence, incitement, refusal to resume negotiations without preconditions) is ignored.
Also, by singling out Israel, Palestinians are encouraged not to return to the negotiating table, end incitement and empower more moderate forces within their society.
The labeling, which facilitates the boycott of Israeli products, ends up hurting the Palestinian economy.
Israeli firms located beyond the Green Line employ tens of thousands of Palestinian. And because economic ties are difficult to untangle, a boycott inevitably ends up becoming a collective punishment of Jews living on both sides of the Green Line as well as of Palestinians.
No one knows where the final border will be drawn.
The idea of land swaps in which Israel will give up territory within the Green Line in exchange for holding onto the large settlement blocs, which make up no more than 2 percent of the West Bank, has become a central principle of negotiations between the Palestinians and Israel. Just recently, the Arab League endorsed the idea that the 1949 armistice line was not sacred and that “mild” land swaps were acceptable. Therefore, only negotiations will determine the final status of the disputed territories in the West Bank. In the meantime, future borders remain unknown.
Only direct Israeli-Palestinian negotiations can determine those borders. Labeling products presumes that all Jewish settlements beyond the Green Line will be dismantled and that all of the West Bank will be made Judenrein, an idea from which even the Arab League has backed away.
The labeling of Israeli products is reminiscent of the Arab states’ longstanding diplomatic, economic and cultural boycotts of Israel. These boycotts were implemented from the moment of Israel’s founding, at a time when Jordan occupied the West Bank and all Jewish settlements located beyond the 1949 armistice lines were ethnically cleansed and destroyed.
Not only should the EU delay labeling Israeli products, it should scrap the idea altogether as ethically indefensible and incompatible with historical and territorial realities.