Benjamin Netanyahu Likens EU Settlement Labeling Plan to Nazi Era

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu compared the European Union's show of support for a proposal to label products from West Bank settlements to Nazi discrimination against Jews on Thursday.

The European Parliament voted in favor of a non-binding resolution that proposed the labeling of products made in Jewish settlements in the West Bank that are defined as illegal under international law, on Thursday.

The motion also proposed "differentiating" EU policy towards Israel and the Jewish settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. 525 EU parliamentarians voted for the resolution, 70 voted against and 31 abstained.

Following the vote, Netanyahu launched a scathing attack on the EU labeling plan in a statement released late on Thursday, calling it "unjust" and alluding to the period when the Nazi party forced Jews to wear a yellow cloth badge to identify themselves, as well as forcing them to identify their shops and department stores. Netanyahu is currently in London to meet with his British counterpart David Cameron and with Jewish groups.

"The root of the conflict is not the territories, and the root of the conflict is not the settlements," he said in the statement, according to the Times of Israel. "We remember history and we remember what happened when the products of Jews were labeled in Europe."

"It is simply a distortion of justice and of logic and I think that it also hurts peace; it does not advance peace," he added.

Israeli foreign ministry spokesman Emmanuel Nahshon also condemned the EU decision on the motion, saying that the "process of labeling is discriminatory, and reeks of boycott."

"Europe treats Israel with sanctimonious hypocrisy, while it doesn't raise the issue of similar solutions in Northern Cyprus and Western Sahara," he said.

The European Commission, the bloc's executive body, is discussing the issue of labeling West Bank settlement products and EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said at a press conference last Saturday that the guidelines are close to being finalised, the Jerusalem Post reported. "The work is close to being finished, but it is still ongoing," she said after a meeting with EU foreign ministers in Luxembourg.

A spokesperson for Mogherini declined to comment on the resolution but said that guidelines on the labeling of products from the settlements would come from the European Commission. "It is important to know that we are not talking about a new legislation, but of ensuring effective implementation of existing EU legislation regarding labeling."

New EU laws, applied from December 2014, brought the EU rules on general food labeling into a single piece of legislation, with the country of origin required on products across the continent.

A number of EU member states, including Britain, already have guidelines for shops to allow consumers to have knowledge of where products have been made but a there has been "a general call" from EU member states for the European Commission to "provide guidance at EU level," the spokesperson added.

Work on the guidelines was initiated by Mogherini's predecessor, Catherine Ashton, but this was frozen for nine months from August 2013 to April 2014 after a request from the U.S. while it sponsored peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians. The work was restarted in April this year after 16 out of the 28 EU member states sent a letter to Mogherini to accelerate the publication of the guidelines.

Despite the moves towards the labeling of settlement goods, Hilik Bar, an Israeli politician and secretary-general of the opposition Labor Party, told Newsweek in July that he believes that such action is a distant prospect.

"I met with [EU foreign policy chief] Federica Mogherini twice in the last two months and she is a good friend. I know that she is not there and I know that most of the prime ministers of the EU countries are not there," he said.

The global Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, which campaigns for the end of the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and for equal rights for Palestinians, has had a series of successes in its impact on businesses operating in the West Bank. Earlier this month, Veolia sold its final stake in Israel after years of pressure from the campaign, which claimed a "major" victory, and the Israeli drinks company SodaStream also closed its West Bank factory, with the company's CEO accusing the movement of "anti-Semitism."