Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has ordered Israel’s Foreign Ministry to suspend all contact with European Union institutions, in response to the EU’s decision to label products made in the West Bank.
A spokesperson for the Foreign Ministry said that while communications with Germany, Britain and France will continue, Israel will be “reassessing” the level of involvement it will have with other EU states over the Palestinian peace process.
Once the “reassessment” is complete, it will be decided if and how to renew communication on the Palestinian issue with the European Union institutions in Brussels and the EU’s representatives in Israel.
The meaning of Netanyahu’s decision and its timing – two weeks after the EU decided to label products created in the settlements – are unclear.
In addition, it’s unclear how different the decision is from a previous one that was made two weeks ago, a few hours after the guidelines for labeling products from the settlements were published, and which also included a certain suspension of ties with the EU regarding the Palestinian issue.
Netanyahu’s instructions are a continuation of preliminary steps announced on the day that the EU published the new guidelines. On the same day, EU ambassador to Israel Lars Faaborg-Andersen was called in to the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem for a dressing down, and was updated that Israel had decided to cancel a few political consultation meetings that were scheduled to take place between the parties in upcoming weeks.
Foreign Ministry officials told the EU ambassador that Israel would suspend part of the diplomatic dialogues it is holding with the organization, and in effect would cancel a meeting on human-rights issues and a meeting on international organizations that were scheduled to take place in upcoming weeks.
The ministry noted at this stage, a date will not be set for another meeting with the EU as part of talks on the advancement of projects related to the Palestinians in the West Bank’s Area C. The first and only meeting of this type took place in September, and an additional date has not been set since.
In the beginning of November, the European Commission adopted the notice on indication of origin of goods from the territories occupied by Israel since June 1967. The notice will contain guidelines for labeling of products from West bank settlements.
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 that EU legislation and regulations reflect this position. Accordingly, “products of Palestine” that are not produced in settlements will be labeled “products from the West Bank (Palestinian product)” or “product of Gaza” or “product of Palestine.
According to the document, enforcing the guidelines will be under the authority of the agencies within the 28 EU member states. Member countries will determine which punishments they will enforce on anyone who does not abide by the regulations.