Israel, Belgium clash over settlement products labeling

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Israel’s deputy foreign minister has canceled meetings with Belgian officials after Brussels decided to label products made in Jewish West Bank settlements.

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TEL AVIV, Israel — Israel’s deputy foreign minister on Wednesday canceled a meeting with Belgian officials, following Brussels’ decision earlier this week to start labeling products made in Jewish West Bank settlements.

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He said in a tweet, “The Belgian government’s decision to label products of Judea and Samaria strengthens extremists, does not help promote peace in the region, and does not contribute to Belgium’s regional stability. “

Belgium’s Foreign Office confirmed on Wednesday that the country wants labeled disposal products and that it plans to increase controls on goods arriving from Israeli settlements.

It said in a statement that Belgium continues to apply international and European law, “which differentiates between Israel on the one hand and the Palestinian territories on the other.”

“We expect these goods to be correctly labeled by exporters,” noting that “we have found that it is very difficult to confirm the exact origin of the products.” It was noted that there was no restriction on disposal products.

Israel’s foreign ministry portrayed the decision as a blow to the country’s new government – ​​a broad coalition of both nationalist and dualist parties that sought to project a friendlier image than previous governments under former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. is of.

“The decision to label the products harms Israel and Palestinians and is out of step with the government of Israel’s policy that seeks to improve the lives of Palestinians and strengthen the Palestinian Authority and Israel’s relations with other European countries.” focused with.” Ministry said.

The EU’s top court ruled in 2019 that EU countries must identify products made in Israeli settlements on their labels. The European Court of Justice ruled that when products come from an Israeli settlement, their labels must provide an “indication of that origin” so that consumers can make an “informed choice” when making a purchase.

The European Commission said it was up to individual EU countries to ensure that the labels are accurate, but that the origin of the disposal product must be known in a way that “is not misleading to the consumer.”

Israel says the labeling is unfair and discriminatory and adds that other countries involved in the land dispute have not been approved in a similar way.

Belgium’s move follows a similar move by France in 2016, which in a non-binding decision urged businesses to use labels to identify items produced in Israeli settlements. Israel condemned France’s decision at the time, and a winery located in the West Bank settlement took the matter to court, leading to the 2019 ECJ ruling.

Israel occupied the West Bank along with East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip in the 1967 Middle East war. Palestinians seek all three regions for a future state. Some 700,000 Jewish settlers now live in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. Israel withdrew from the Gaza Strip in 2005.

Most of the international community considers the settlements illegitimate and an obstacle to the creation of a Palestinian state. For decades, successive Israeli governments – including those ruled by parties that support the Palestinian state – have continued to expand settlements in the West Bank, allowing Palestinians to annex land for their independent state.

Israel views the West Bank as a strategic region that has great historical significance for the Jewish people.

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Associated Press correspondent Lorna Cook contributed reporting from Brussels.

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