The move in Europe to label products from West Bank settlements is unstoppable, European sources told TheMarker on Monday, adding that this was a message European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini brought with her during her visit to Israel 10 days ago.
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The plan would require supermarkets and other retailers to label products made in West Bank and Golan Heights settlements as well as in East Jerusalem differently from those originating in Israel. Israeli officials believe the measures are meant to pressure Israel into resuming talks with the Palestinians or at least to deter it from Israel for massive construction in settlements.
Sources in the Prime Minister’s Office said that Mogherini made no such remarks to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during her visit, only reiterating calls for a two-state solution in a pre-meeting statement and proposing talks on the borders of the settlement blocs Israel would retain in a final arrangement with the Palestinians.
But a week before the visit, the foreign ministers of 16 of the EU’s 28 member states urged her in a letter to advance the labeling moves. They said the legislative process, which was initiated over two years ago and halted, should be revived out of fairness to European consumers, who are entitled to know where their products they buy come from.
This year a EU directive was issued not to recognize Israeli veterinary supervision from occupied areas. The European sources said the practical effect of the ban had been on Ramat Hagolan Dairies in the Golan Heights.
Israeli farm exports to Europe have fallen in recent year, but industry sources attribute this not to any EU action rather to a glut of local produce, in part as a result of Russia’s ban, imposed last year, on European agricultural imports in retaliation for Western sanctions on Moscow.
But several Israeli agricultural exporters said recently that the current fall in European orders may be due to retailers’ desire to head off pro-Palestinian groups demonstrations outside their stores.
Israeli government officials who asked not to be identified say they don’t regard the global boycott, sanctions and divestment movement as a present strategic threat to the Israeli economy. “It has the potential to be a strategic threat in the future, but we’re far from that,” said one source.
The past year has seen a gradual increase in calls for boycotts of Israel, with the government counting 43 attempts by foreign student organizations. Only 23% of such resolutions have passed, and they have no practical effect. A few pension funds, mainly in Scandinavia, have announced they will divest beyond the Green Line.