The decision has not been well received by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who said the EU ‘should be ashamed of itself’, calling the decision "hypocritical and a double standard.”
The EU announced at a meeting in Brussels this week that it considers settlements built on territories occupied by Israel in 1967, comprising the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and the Golan Heights, which were captured from Syria, to be illegal under international law.
However, Israel disputes this and the Israeli foreign ministry has summoned the EU ambassador to the country and said it would suspend diplomatic dialogue in the coming weeks.
“We regret that the EU has chosen, for political reasons, to take such an exceptional and discriminatory step, inspired by the boycott movement, particularly at this time, when Israel is confronting a wave of terrorism targeting any and all of its citizens,” it says.
According to the Commission’s factsheet on this announcement, the new rules apply not only to cosmetics but also to fresh fruit and vegetables, wine, honey, olive oil, eggs, poultry, and organic products.
It states that for products from West Bank or the Golan Heights that originate from settlements, the expression ‘Israeli settlement’ or equivalent needs to be added, in brackets; while for products from the West Bank not originating from settlements could be labelled ‘product from Palestine’ or ‘Palestinian product.’
The EU states that this decision is just to clarify member states' obligations to ensure consumers are fully informed.
However, according to Reuters, Israel estimates that the impact of the EU decision will be about $50 million (€47m) a year, and its foreign ministry says it is an example of ‘double standards.’
“It is puzzling and even irritating that the EU chooses to apply a double standard concerning Israel, while ignoring that there are over 200 other territorial disputes worldwide, including those occurring within the EU or on its doorstep. The claim that this is a technical matter is cynical and baseless,” it says.
“Product labelling does not advance any political process between Israel and the Palestinians. The opposite is the case - it is bound to reinforce the PA’s refusal to conduct direct negotiations with Israel, negotiations that the EU claims to support.”
The ministry adds that the decision raises questions regarding the role that the EU aspires to play and may also have implications for Israel-EU relations.