Goods from Israeli settlements that are sold in the United States must be labeled as “product of Israel” or similar starting Wednesday, under a new Federal Register Notice issued by U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
The new guidelines were drawn up after Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced the decision during a visit to the region last month.
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Since the Oslo Accords were signed in the mid-1990s and up until Wednesday, products from the settlements could not be marked with Israel as the country of origin, as it was considered misleading for consumers. The change in U.S. policy in effect erases the distinction between goods produced by Israelis on either side of the Green Line, the armistice demarcation line prior to the 1967 Six-Day war, that separates Israel and the West Bank.
According to the notice, the change reflects “guidance from the U.S. Department of State that the country of origin marking requirements for goods produced in certain areas of the West Bank be updated to reflect the fact that producers in these areas operate within the economic and administrative framework of Israel.”
The notice, which was published Wednesday in the Federal Register, grants importers a 90-day transition period to implement the change in policy.
According to the notice, goods from Area C, which under the Oslo Accords was under exclusive Israeli control, must be marked to indicate their origin as “Israel,” “Product of Israel” or “Made in Israel.” Goods from Area A and Area B, which are under full Palestinian control and under Israeli security control and Palestinian civil control, respectively, must be marked “West Bank,” “product of West Bank” or “made in West Bank.” Goods from the Gaza Strip must be marked as such.
The U.S. decision does not affect exports from settlements to the European Union, the origin of which must be labeled as “Israeli settlements.”
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When Pompeo announced the policy change, he said: “We will continue to oppose those countries and international institutions which delegitimize or penalize Israel and Israeli producers in the West Bank through malicious measuresthat fail to recognize the reality on the ground.” During the same visit, which came after President Donald Trump lost his bid for reelection, Pompeo announced the decision to regard as antisemitic organizations that support the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement against Israel.
When he announced the shift in the labeling policy, it was not clear whether the bureaucratic hurdles to translating intention into policy could be cleared before the inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden in January. Democratic administrations, in contrast to that of Trump, did not recognize settlements products as originating in Israel.
Officials in the Palestinian Authority said the measure supported the Israeli occupation when Pompeo announced it in November. Nabil Abu Rudeineh, a spokesman for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, described the move as “a blatant challenge to all the decisions of the international community and a continuation of the Trump administration’s policy of seeking to be an active partner in the occupation of the Palestinian territories.”
J Street, the Washington-based advocacy group that describes itself as “pro-Israel and pro-peace,” noted that the 90-day window means that the action can still be reversed by a new administration and said that it intended to push for that. "J Street believes the next administration should quickly reverse moves like this that up-end decades of bipartisan American policy and return to the view, held by the rest of the world, that the West Bank is occupied territory and not part of Israel proper for legal purposes,” the organization said in a statement.
An earlier version of the headline stated that "in first, exports to U.S. from settlements will be labeled 'product of Israel.'" It is the first time since the mid-1990s.