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Houses can be seen at the Jewish West Bank settlement of Maale Efrayim in the Jordan Valley.(Photo by: REUTERS)
Israel to EU team: Labeling settlement products is unfair
Israel, according to diplomatic officials, made clear it was opposed to the move in the “strongest terms,” and said it viewed the step as “very grave.”
Israel voiced strong opposition on Monday during a high-level diplomatic dialogue with the EU over its plans to label goods produced beyond the Green Line, diplomatic officials said.

The Israeli team to the annual informal strategic dialogue with the EU was led by the Foreign Ministry’s deputy director-general for political affairs, Alon Ushpiz, and the EU team was headed by Helga Schmid, the deputy director-general of the European External Action Service.

The meeting took place a day before European Council President Donald Tusk is scheduled to arrive for a two-day visit to Israel and the Palestinian Authority. He is scheduled to meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday.

Though a wide range of regional and bilateral issues were discussed in the informal dialogue held Monday, this issue was prominent during the talks following EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini’s remarks last week in Luxembourg that the EU was close to finalizing guidelines for labeling settlement products.

Israel, according to diplomatic officials, charged that labeling products from the settlements discriminated unfairly against Israel, since the EU does not have a similar policy toward other disputed areas around the world, including northern Cyprus or the western Sahara.

Also, Israel argued, this would be a “slippery slope” leading to discriminatory steps against Israeli products, and eventual boycott. There is only a “short distance” from settlement labeling to boycotts, the officials argued.

Israel, according to diplomatic officials, made clear it was opposed to the move in the “strongest terms,” and said it viewed the step as “very grave.”

Israeli officials said that the new guidelines will not likely be issued until October, after the Jewish holidays, and that much of the discussion about them is speculative since nothing yet has been written down.

Though the settlement-labeling issue is currently high on the bilateral agenda, this was not the reason the meeting took place now.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Emmanuel Nachshon said the meeting was part of routine meetings between Jerusalem and Brussels, “and is a good occasion for a general survey of ongoing issues, both on the bilateral level, and also regarding regional issues.”

Though Schmid was one of the top European negotiators with Iran over the nuclear deal, that issue took a back seat in Monday’s talks to other bilateral and regional ones, such as the Palestinians’ diplomatic track and the refugee crisis facing Europe.
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