Israel Suspends Ties With EU Institutions Over Labeling Row

TEL AVIV – Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday instructed Israel’s Foreign Ministry to halt the implementation of European Union policies as well as its involvement in the peace process with the Palestinians.

The Prime Minister, who is also acting as Foreign Minister, “ordered the suspension of diplomatic contacts within EU institutions and its representatives on this issue,” a Hebrew-language statement from the foreign ministry said. Over the coming days, the Foreign Ministry will determine the exact nature of the measure’s implications but until it reached a further decision on the matter all diplomatic ties would continue to be suspended.

To date, several scheduled EU meetings have been suspended.

The Foreign Ministry further stated that it had no interest in conducting talks with the EU regarding the conflict at the same time that the EU itself is involved in measures which are in direct opposition to Israel’s interests.

The ministry emphasized that it is not suspending ties with European countries, including Germany, France and the UK, rather it was suspending ties solely with EU institutions. “We are examining each country as a separate entity,” the statement said. “Israel’s interests vis-à-vis Europe and EU member countries will not be harmed.”

This month the EU published guidelines for clearly labeling all products manufactured in the West Bank, eastern Jerusalem and the Golan Heights, territories captured in the 1967 war.

Following the move, the Foreign Ministry summoned the EU’s ambassador to Israel Lars Faaborg-Andersen for a talk. Netanyahu called the move “hypocritical and a double standard” and condemned the EU for singling Israel while ignoring the other 200 territorial conflicts in the world.

Not everyone agrees with Israel that the measure sets out to boycott the Jewish state. The Obama administration concurred with Faaborg-Andersen’s assertion that it was only a “technical” matter to assist consumers.

“We do not believe that labeling the origin of products is equivalent to a boycott,” State Department spokesman Mark Toner said.  “And as you know, we do not consider settlements to be part of Israel. We do not view labeling the origin of products as being from the settlements as a boycott of Israel.”

While many people are claiming that the labeling legislation will harm thousands of Palestinian jobs at Israeli factories in the West Bank,  others, like Fatah spokesman Ziad Abu Zayyad, are of the view that the legislation is a “step in the right direction.” As Abu Zayyad wrote in Haaretz newspaper on Sunday, “Boycotting settlement products is a necessary step on the road to prevent the development of a process conducive to one apartheid state.”

Abu Zayyad, who was formerly a Palestinian minister involved in the Oslo Peace Process, has come under fire in the past for expressing the view that Palestinian terrorism is the result of Israel’s policy of demolishing the family homes of terrorists.

KaDeWe, a chain of department stores in Germany, removed items manufactured in Israeli settlements from its shelves following the legislation announcement.  However, after receiving criticism from pro-Israel groups, the chain store – which was founded in 1905 by a German Jew – returned the items to shelves and apologized for taking them down.


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