Israel and Belgium clash over the labeling of settlement products

After Brussels decided to start labeling products produced in Jewish settlements in the West Bank, the Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister cancelled meetings with Belgian officials

Tel Aviv, Israel-After Brussels decided earlier this week to start labeling products produced in Jewish settlements in the West Bank, the Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister cancelled meetings with Belgian officials on Wednesday.

“The Belgian government’s decision to label products from Judea and Samaria strengthened the power of extremists, did not help promote peace in the region, and showed that Belgium did not contribute to regional stability,” he said in a tweet Say.

The Belgian Ministry of Foreign Affairs confirmed on Wednesday that the country wants to label settled products and plans to strengthen control of goods from Israeli settlements.

It stated in a statement that Belgium continues to apply international and European laws, “it distinguishes Israel on the one hand, and Palestinian territories on the other.”

“We hope that exporters can mark these goods correctly,” it said, noting that “we found it difficult to confirm the exact origin of the products.” It pointed out that there is no prohibition on the settlement of products.

The Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs described the decision as a blow to the country’s new government—a broad coalition of nationalist and dovish parties that tried to create something more powerful than the previous government under the leadership of hardline former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Friendly image.

“The decision to label products hurts Israelis and Palestinians. This is inconsistent with the Israeli government’s policy, which focuses on improving the lives of Palestinians and strengthening the Palestinian Authority, as well as improving Israel’s relations with other European countries,” the ministry said. .

The European Union’s Supreme Court ruled in 2019 that EU countries must indicate on their labels products manufactured in Israeli settlements. The European Court of Justice stated that when a product comes from an Israeli settlement, its label must provide “an indication of the source” so that consumers can make a “wise choice” when shopping.

The European Commission stated that the responsibility to ensure correct labeling rests with EU countries, but it must inform the source of the settlement product in a way that “will not mislead consumers”.

Israel stated that the labeling is unfair and discriminatory, and stated that other countries involved in land disputes have not been subject to similar sanctions.

The Belgian move follows similar steps taken by France in 2016, which urged companies to use labels to identify goods produced in Israeli settlements in a non-binding decision. Israel condemned the French decision at the time, and a winery in a settlement in the West Bank took the matter to court, leading the European Court of Justice to make a decision in 2019.

In the 1967 Middle East War, Israel occupied the West Bank and East Jerusalem and Gaza Strip. The Palestinians seek a future state in all three areas. Approximately 700,000 Jewish settlers now live in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. Israel withdrew from the Gaza Strip in 2005.

Most of the international community believes that settlements are illegal and an obstacle to the establishment of a Palestinian state. For decades, successive Israeli governments—including those governed by parties that support the establishment of a Palestinian state—continued to expand settlements in the West Bank, devouring land where Palestinians wanted to establish an independent state.

Israel regards the West Bank as a strategic territory of great historical significance to the Jews.

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Associated Press reporter Lorne Cook contributed reporting to this article from Brussels.

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