EU la­belling is not what it seems

The Jewish Chronicle - - FRONT PAGE - BY ANSHEL PF­EF­FER

IS­RAEL’S OF­FI­CIAL re­sponse to the pub­li­ca­tion this week of the Euro­pean Com­mis­sion’s guide­lines on la­belling set­tle­ment pro­duce was harsh.

Gov­ern­ment press of­fices put out state­ments protest­ing over Europe’s “dou­ble stan­dards” and an­nounced the sus­pen­sion of all high-level meet­ings with Euro­pean Union of­fi­cials.

Pri­vately, how­ever, se­nior of­fi­cials ad­mit­ted that the ac­tual fi­nan­cial dam­age would be rel­a­tively small.

Un­der the new guide­lines, pub­lished on Wed­nes­day, prod­ucts com­ing from the set­tle­ments in the West Bank or from east­ern Jerusalem and the Golan Heights will not be al­lowed to carry the la­bel “pro­duce of Is­rael” but must say, for ex­am­ple, “pro­duce of the West Bank (Is­raeli set­tle­ment).”

This is the cul­mi­na­tion of seven years of wran­gling be­tween Is­rael and the EU. The process was kicked off by for­mer prime min­is­ter Gor­don Brown who, de­spite his sup­port for Is­rael, took the view that goods made in the set­tle­ments should not enjoy the pref­er­en­tial tar­iffs that Is­raeli ex­ports to the EU re­ceive.

In a let­ter to High Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Fed­er­ica Mogherini, Prime Min­is­ter Ben­jamin Ne­tanyahu crit­i­cised the EU for pick­ing on Is­rael and ig­nor­ing other border dis­putes such as the dis­agree­ment over north­ern Cyprus,

where the EU does not recog­nise Turk­ish con­trol.

How­ever, de­spite the protests, Is­raeli of­fi­cials do not be­lieve that many Is­raeli prod­ucts will be af­fected.

The set­tle­ments an­nu­ally ex­port an es­ti­mated $300m worth of goods and lit­tle of that goes to the EU.

The es­ti­mated dam­age is no higher thant $50 mil­lion a year, out of $12.7 bil­lion worth of goods and ser­vices Is­rael ex­ports to Europe.

In ad­di­tion, they point out that the EU pur­posely sought to lower the pro­file of the an­nounce­ment. The guide­lines were pub­lished on Novem­ber 11, when many coun­tries were ob­serv­ing Re­mem­brance Day and the EU’s heads of state were at a key sum­mit in Malta, discussing im­mi­gra­tion with their African coun­ter­parts.

Is­rael’s cen­tral com­plaint is that the move was made de­spite the re­cent wave of Pales­tinian violence and could be construed by the Pales­tini­ans as a “prize” for the terror. One of the main con­cerns in the Is­raeli For­eign Min­istry is not about fi­nan­cial dam­age but the im­pe­tus that the guide­lines could give the BDS move­ment. Euro­pean en­voys in Is­rael were point­ing out on Wed­nes­day that they op­posed sanc­tions and the guide­lines were about in­form­ing cus­tomers of the prove­nance of prod­ucts. But it will be up to in­di­vid­ual mem­ber­states to en­force them.

“This will give lo­cal BDS groups no end of op­por­tu­ni­ties for ag­i­ta­tion and provo­ca­tions over any shop stock­ing Is­raeli pro­duce,” said one diplo­mat.

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