Politics

EU Labelling of Settlement Products Not Enough, Says Palestinian Official

The European Union's move Wednesday to label products from Israeli settlements sold in the bloc is "insufficient" and a total ban on Israeli settlement products must be enforced, a Palestinian official said on Wednesday.

The EU's executive body, the European Commission, adopted new guidelines for the labeling of products from the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights, which Israel occupied in the Six-Day War.

Israel's occupation of these areas is not recognized by the European Union and Israeli settlements are deemed illegal under international law. Rights groups welcomed the move, saying that it was Israel's obligation to comply with international law. The EU's decision had been in the making for three years after a request from a number of foreign ministers from EU member states.

Yet, a senior Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) official, speaking on condition of anonymity as they were not authorized to speak to the media, has said that the EU's measure does not go far enough.

"Labeling settlement products is a step in the right direction," the official says. "However, it is still insufficient. The products of settlements must be banned, not just labelled, since they are made out of a situation considered under international law as a war crime with stolen natural resources on occupied land."

The new guidelines, which require Israeli producers to label farm and cosmetic goods from settlements with the term "settlement" in some capacity if they are to be sold within the EU, prompted an angry Israeli response on Wednesday. The Israeli Foreign Ministry summoned EU's envoy to Israel for a meeting in Jerusalem, and said that the move will hurt both the prospects of peace with the Palestinians and EU-Israeli relations.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu went a step further and said that the economic bloc "should be ashamed" of the decision and again likened the move to the Nazi era, when Jews were labeled.

"The labelling of products of the Jewish state by the European Union brings back dark memories. Europe should be ashamed of itself," Netanyahu said. "It took an immoral decision. Of the hundreds of territorial conflicts around the world, it chose to single out Israel and Israel alone, while it's fighting with its back against the wall against the wave of terror.

"The European Union is not going to hurt the Israeli economy. It's strong enough to weather this, but it's the Palestinian workers in Israeli enterprises in Judea and Samaria that will be hurt," he added. "This will not advance peace; it will certainly not advance truth and justice. It's wrong. Europe should be ashamed of itself."

Brussels countered the criticism by say that it was simply outlining the guidelines for its members and not taking a stance on the Israeli-Palestinian issue. European Commission vice-president Valdis Dombrovskis said it was "a technical issue not a political stance," AFP reported.

"The EU does not support in any form a boycott or sanctions against Israel," he added.

Three EU member countries, Britain, Denmark and Belgium, already have their own guidelines for the labeling of products from Israeli settlements within the Palestinian territories.

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