Israel and Belgium clash over labeling of settlement products

Israel’s deputy foreign minister canceled meetings with Belgian officials on Wednesday after a decision by Brussels earlier this week to start labeling products made in Jewish West Bank settlements.

Idan Roll said on Twitter that he was ruling out meetings with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Belgian parliament during a visit this week to the European country.

“The decision of the Belgian government to label products from Judea and Samaria strengthens the extremists, does not help promote peace in the region and shows that Belgium does not contribute to regional stability,” he said in a tweet.

Belgium’s Foreign Ministry confirmed on Wednesday that the country wants products from the settlements to be labeled and that it plans to increase controls on products coming from Israeli settlements.

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

“We hope that these products will be correctly labeled by the exporters,” he said, noting that “we have found that it is very difficult to confirm the exact origin of the products.” He noted that there was no ban on products from the settlements.

Israel’s Foreign Ministry described the decision as a blow to the country’s new government, a broad coalition of both nationalist and moderate parties that has tried to project a friendlier image than previous governments under the hard-line former prime minister. Benjamin Netanyahu.

“The decision to label the products harms Israelis and Palestinians and is out of step with the policy of the Israeli government that focuses on improving the lives of Palestinians and strengthening the Palestinian Authority and with improving Israeli relations with other countries. Europeans, “he said the ministry.

The European Union’s highest court ruled in 2019 that EU countries must identify products made in Israeli settlements on their labels. The European Court of Justice said that when products come from an Israeli settlement, their labels must provide an “indication of that provenance” so that consumers can make “informed decisions” when shopping.

The European Commission said it is up to each EU country to ensure that the labels are correct, but that the origin of products from the settlement must be disclosed in a way that “does not mislead the consumer.”

Israel says the labeling is unfair and discriminatory and says other countries involved in land disputes are not sanctioned in a similar way.

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

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