EU Parliament’s Israel-relations czar opposes settlement labelling guidelines

(JTA) The European Parliament’s main body for promoting relations with Israel came out in opposition to new guidelines on special labelling for products from the West Bank.

Fulvio Martusciello, the Italian chair of the European Parliament Delegation for Relations with Israel, said during a speech Tuesday that he sides with Israel regarding its criticism of the European Commission’s issuing of guidelines requiring such labelling.

“We Europeans have not been the best partner and we are pushing back this partnership,” he said about E.U.-Israeli relations during his speech in Brussels before members of the American Jewish Committee. The guidelines, he added, were designed to “stop products from beyond the 1967 Green Line” and to exert political pressure on Israel only to push forward peace talks with Palestinians.

Israeli officials have been outspoken in their opposition to the new labelling, which was adopted Wednesday by the European Commissioner in Brussels and which will be published later on Wednesday or sometime during the week.

Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely said the guidelines were discriminatory and designed to promote a boycott, whereas former Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said in April that “Europe might as well use yellow Jewish stars” a reference to tags the Nazis made Jews wear during the Holocaust. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also invoked European anti-Semitism in September, when he said about the plan: “We have historical memory of what happened when Europe labeled Jewish products.”

But a senior European diplomat told JTA such allusions are “emotional” and “without political basis.” He added they were designed to give clarity to consumers, not to boycott Israel.

Still, the new guidelines were subject to last-minute discussions in Brussels because of their sensitivity, according to the news site EUobserver.com.

According to a draft of the guidelines obtained by the news website, the guidelines will recommend that labels will indicate not only the geographical origin of West Bank products, but also whether they originate from Palestinian or Israeli farmers.

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