Israel furious as France moves to label settlement goods

Israel furious as France moves to label settlement goods
Franced announced on Thursday new guidelines for labelling goods from illegal Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories, angering Tel Aviv.
2 min read
25 November, 2016
Labelling goods simply as from the West Bank or Golan Heights is not acceptable [AFP]
Tel Aviv accused France of aiding a boycott of Israel, after Paris announced new guidelines for labelling goods from illegal settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories.

France published guidelines on Thursday on enforcing EU regulations on labelling goods from the West Bank, including annexed east Jerusalem, which the international community considers occupied Palestinian land, as well as the Golan Heights, which Israel seized from Syria in 1967.

It was believed to be the first time that guidelines were issued by an individual member state since the EU backed labelling of products from Israeli settlements a year ago, a move which sparked a diplomatic crisis with Israel.

"Under international law the Golan Heights and the West Bank, including east Jerusalem, are not part of Israel," said an advisory published on a French government site.

Labelling goods simply as from the West Bank or Golan Heights without more details is "not acceptable," it said.

Goods must be stipulated as coming from an "Israeli settlement" when that is the case, to avoid "the risk of misleading the consumer," it added.

In response, the Israeli foreign ministry said it "regrets that France, which actually has a law against boycotts, is advancing measures that can be interpreted as encouraging radical elements and the movement to boycott Israel."

In November 2015, the EU's executive body sparked a major diplomatic row with Israel by adopting a motion that effectively declared that products from settlements would have to be labelled as such across the bloc.

Though the EU insisted the decision was a technical one, Israel suspended some cooperation and a minister called it "disguised anti-Semitism."

European diplomats privately admit the strength of the Israeli response has made many member states wary of issuing their own specific guidelines.

Hugh Lovatt, Israel coordinator at the European Council on Foreign Relations think tank, said France was the first member state to do so since the EU decision.

Lovatt said France's frustration in recent months at Israel's refusal to attend a Paris-led peace conference and its continued expansion of the illegal settlements could have fed into the move.

He added there had also been concerted action by French civil society and lawmakers.

"The question is whether other member states follow the French example. EU states tend to act like a herd so yesterday's move may lead others to follow suit," he said.

Paris has been seeking to organise an international peace conference before the end of the year in a bid to kickstart the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, stalled since early 2014.