Israel protests EU labeling policy by quitting some talks

(JTA) – Israel’s Foreign Ministry suspended dialogue with the European Union to protest the EU’s decision to label products from West Bank settlements separately from goods made within Israel’s pre-1967 borders. 

The ministry froze the dialogue on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict on Wednesday, saying in a statement that it was pulling out of several EU forums, the Times of Israel reported.

“We have suspended the subcommittee on diplomacy, the subcommittee on human rights and international organizations,” the statement said. “The remaining dialogues [with the EU] are continuing as planned. Clearly, we won’t damage Israeli interests.”

The ministry’s political director, Alon Ushpiz, told EU Ambassador Lars Faaborg-Anderson that it was regrettable the EU’s move coincides with a wave of Palestinian terror attacks.

Faaborg-Andersen said the new guidelines concerning separate labeling were “a small technical addition to something that has existed for a very long time: the trade facilitation between products coming from Israel proper, within its 1967 lines, and products coming from beyond the Green Line.”

He added that “this is not a boycott.”

The separate labelling will be applied not just to products from Jewish settlements in the West Bank, but also to goods produced in eastern Jerusalem and the Golan Heights.

The move is “hypocritical and applies double standards, targeting Israel when there are over 200 other conflicts around the world,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a statement.

“The Israeli economy is strong and will withstand this; those who will be hurt will be those Palestinians who work in Israeli factories. The EU should be ashamed.”

Some leftist politicians in Israel, notably opposition leader Isaac Herzog, joined right-wingers in denouncing the plan.

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