In a controversial new landmark ruling that has enraged and frustrated Israeli leaders, Europe’s top court has ordered that all goods produced by Israeli settlements in the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights be labeled as such.
Specifically the European Court of Justice decision on Tuesday forbids any products from settlements to be labeled simply as “made in Israel”; instead, they must have a “clear and non-misleading indication of origin” in line with the EU’s consumer policy, as stated by an EU official communicating the ruling to Tel Aviv.
Activists who have for years campaigned against illegal Israeli settlement expansion into the West Bank have hailed it as a victory, and as taking the European public a step closer to recognizing Israel as an ‘apartheid state’ akin to South Africa’s recent history.
The EU’s highest court said in a press release:
“Foodstuffs originating in the territories occupied by the State of Israel must bear the indication of their territory of origin, accompanied, where those foodstuffs come from an Israeli settlement within that territory, by the indication of that provenance.”
The court ruled further that “Israel is present in the territories concerned as an occupying power and not as a sovereign entity.”
The ruling follows prior 2015 guidelines mandated by the EU for member states to require specially labeling goods from settlements, but which not all followed. This also led to lawsuits where it was enacted, such as in France, brought by Israeli businessmen who sought to get the policy thrown out.
This week’s ruling was in response to these legal actions and lack of uniformity across the EU in implementing and enforcing prior policy.
A spokeswoman at the EU embassy in Tel Aviv said, “The EU has a longstanding and well-known position that it will not recognize any changes to pre-1967 Israeli borders other than those agreed by the parties to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”
But she also emphasized this wasn’t an attempt at endorsing “any form of boycott or sanctions against Israel” — in reference to the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement.
Israeli leaders have sought to fiercely push back, given it will have a big impact on Israeli trade with the EU, and could also negatively effect US trade with Europe.
They’ve urged the White House and Congress to pressure the EU not to implement the label ruling, with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu personally urging Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin to put the issue front and center.
Several US Senators have also reportedly gotten involved, according to Axios, sending letters to the EU’s ambassador in Washington and US trade representative Robert Lighthizer, pressuring them to ignore the ruling.