The British government has issued an official recommendation urging business owners to mark Israeli products produced in West Bank settlements so that consumers who want to boycott such items will find it easy to identify them.
The recommendation is not binding, but this step marks an escalation in the country's attitude toward Israel's settlements.
Foreign Ministry official Naor Gilon passed along Israel's harsh condemnation of the move to officials at the British Embassy in Israel on Wednesday.
According to European Union law, many types of products, especially food products, that are imported from outside the Union, by law must be labeled with the country of their origin. The British government issued its recommendation after several NGOs and marketing chains asked for guidelines regarding the differentiation between settler products and Palestinian products from the West Bank.
According to the new guidelines, the British government recommends indicating whether the product was made by Palestinians or Israeli settlers on the label of every product originating from the West Bank.
The government recommendation goes further to say that labeling a product from a settlement as having been manufactured in Israel would be considered a criminal offense as it is misleading to the consumer public.
Israel's Foreign Ministry voiced its rage at this move, saying that this was a severe escalation of the existing protocols regarding the labeling of West Bank products. The Foreign Ministry added that this recommendation promotes boycotts of Israeli products.
"This is a capitulation of the British government to the Palestinian and pro-Palestinian organizations," said Foreign Ministry official Yossi Levy. "This only harms the Middle East peace process, and will hinder Israel's and the world's efforts to renew the diplomatic process at such a critical stage, and that is doubly disappointing."
The British embassy in Israel issued a statement clarifying that this move was not a boycott. "This is a recommendation, not a binding order," the embassy stressed. "The British government is opposed to any kind of boycott of Israel."
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