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EU Approves Labeling of Israeli Settlement Goods

by VOA News November 11, 2015

The European Union published new guidelines Wednesday for labeling products made in Israeli settlements, a move Israel blasted as discriminatory and politically motivated.

The guidelines, drawn up over several years by the European Commission, require Israeli producers to explicitly label farm goods and other products sold in the European Union that come from settlements built on land occupied by Israel.

The bloc's position is that lands Israel captured in the 1967 Six-Day War - the West Bank, East Jerusalem, the Gaza Strip and the Golan Heights - are not part of Israel's internationally recognized borders.

Labels with the "Israeli settlement" term would be mandated for fruits, vegetables and cosmetics, and recommended for other goods.

The EU insists the move is a 'technical' issue, not a political stance.

Israel denounces move

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the European Union should be 'ashamed' of its decision to label products made in Jewish settlements. He compared the decision to the Nazi boycott of Jewish businesses before and during World War II.

Israel suspended a series of meetings with the EU to protest the decision.

Israel's Foreign Ministry condemned the move as an 'exceptional and discriminatory step,' saying it singled Israel out and is potentially harmful to long-standing peace efforts.

EU envoy summoned

Israel summoned the European Union's ambassador to Israel, Lars Faberge-Andersen, for a meeting at the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem.

The European Union is Israel's top trading partner, with total commerce estimated at $32 million based on imports and exports. There are no official European statistics on imports of goods from Israeli settlements, but they are believed to represent less than 1 percent of total trade.

On Tuesday, a U.S. State Department spokesman was asked about the expectation the European Union would publish the new guidelines on Israeli products. Without directly addressing the EU move, the spokesman reiterated the U.S. position that it opposes boycotts that isolate or delegitimize Israel, but Jewish settlements are illegitimate and harmful to peace efforts.

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