Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu criticized on Wednesday the European Commission's decision to label products from Israeli settlements, saying the decision is hypocritical, constitutes a double standard, "and focuses only on Israel and not the 200 other conflicts around the world."
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According to Netanyahu, "the EU decided to mark only [goods made by] Israel, and we are unwilling to accept the fact that EU labels the side being attacked by terror.
"The Israeli economy is strong and will withstand this, those who will suffer will be the Palestinians who are employed in Israeli factories," the prime minister said.
“The EU should be ashamed,” Netanyahu concluded.
The guidelines state that the EU does not recognize Israeli sovereignty beyond the June 1967 borders, regardless of the status of those territories according to Israeli law, and that it is interested in EU legislation and regulations reflecting this position.
Following the decision, EU Ambassador to Israel Lars Faaborg-Andersen was summoned to the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem to be reprimanded on Wednesday evening.
The Israeli Foreign Ministry said in response that the European Union "chooses, for political motives, to take an unusual and discriminatory step" at a time when Israel is facing a wave of terror. In a statement, the ministry said it was "surprised and even angered by the fact that the EU chooses to implement a double standard against Israel, while ignoring 200 territorial disputes taking place today around the world, including within [the EU] or right on [Israel's] doorstep." The claim that the decision is a technical step, added the statement, "is a baseless cynical claim."
A senior official at the Foreign Ministry said Israel has received the guidelines' documents, and that experts from the ministry's legal branch are now analyzing it to formulate an initial legal opinion regarding its ramifications as well as ways to respond.
The decision adopted Wednesday is a result of three years of administrative work and discussion at European Union institutions. During this time, the EU has repeatedly warned Israel of possible consequences of continued construction in the settlements.
A number of Israeli cabinet members reacted swiftly and harshly to the European Union decision. Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon said that labeling products awards a prize to terror.
"The EU decision is an embarrassing step that awards a prize to terror, its operators and its perpetrators. Even if someone or the other in Europe has a disagreement with the State of Israel about the status of the area and its future, the decision to label products is nothing but hypocritical," asserted Ya'alon. "It is strange that the European Union chooses precisely to do damage to the only democracy in the Middle East at a time when it is battling a wave of terror, and when in parallel there is death and destruction in the countries and entities around us, and hundreds of thousands of civilians are being slaughtered, and no one is opening their mouth."
Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, meanwhile, said: "The decision to label settlement products is an anti-Israeli and anti-Jewish decision. European hypocrisy and hatred toward Israel goes beyond the pale. It is interesting that in the Western Sahara or Cyprus they are not required to label products." Shaked added that she was looking into taking legal steps against the EU decision.
In Ramallah, the Palestinian Authority cheered the EU move. "We welcome this decision and consider it a significant move toward a total boycott of Israeli settlements, which are built illegally on occupied Palestinian lands," said Saeb Erekat, a top aide to President Mahmoud Abbas and senior member of the Palestine Liberation Organization.
It shows, he said, that the EU is moving from statements to concrete actions. More such actions "are necessary to hold Israel accountable for the crimes it continues to commit against the land and people of Palestine," he said in a statement.