Amid EU Bid to Label Settlement Goods, Ahava Mulls New Factory Inside Green Line

Cosmetics company's main production site is at Mitzpe Shalem, at the southeastern tip of the West Bank; they deny politics is behind move to open site.

Courtesy and Gil Cohen Magen

Ahava Dead Sea, whose body care products are sold by young Israelis in shopping malls around the world, may open a factory inside Israel amid concerns the European Union will require products made at its current facility labelled as from a West Bank settlement. 

Ahava confirmed it was mulling building an additional plant, but denied that political considerations were behind the move. “In light of expanding production needs and changes in regulations for cosmetic products in some Western nations, Ahava is indeed examining the possibility of opening an additional factory. One of the possibilities is the Tamar Regional Council. Other possibilities are also being looked into. As of now there is no final decision,” the company said in a statement.

The Tamar Regional Council is located inside the Green Line, just south of its current facility in Mitzpe Shalem at the southeastern tip of the West Bank. Both touch the shores of the Dead Sea, whose mud and mineral-based compounds are used to make cosmetics and skin care treatments the company says have special properties. Ahava employs some 180 workers and has annual sales at 184 million shekels ($48 million).

TheMarker reported last week that EU officials plan to pulegislation that would require European retailer to label goods produced in the the settlements as made in the West Bank or Golan Heights rather than in Israel. Apart from making them easier to target by consumers boycotting the settlements, the products would face higher duties than those imported from Israel, which has a free trade agreement with the EU. Israel plans to launch a diplomatic effort to stop, or at least postpone, the planned EU directive, senior officials told Haaretz.

Ahava has faced boycott pressure and in 2011 it was forced to shut down its London retail outlet after pro-Palestinian activists staged a months-long protest, some of which grew violent and prompted local police to guard the store.

Ahava’s move comes heightened anxiety in Israel about the boycott. SodaStream, a maker of home machine for carbonated drinks, quit its West Bank factory earlier ths year and opened at plant near Be’er Sheva, although like Ahava it said it was not not acting due to boycott pressure. Last week Stephane Richard, the CEO of France’s Orange SA, caused an uproar by saying he wanted to get out of the licensing contract for the Orange brand with Israeli cellphone operator Partner Communications.

Another EU directive, issued this year, no longer recognizes Israeli veterinary supervision in the occupied areas. The European sources said the practical effect of the ban had been on Ramat Hagolan Dairies in the Golan Heights.

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