Greece rejects EU’s call to label Israeli settlement products

Alexis Tsipras, left, with Benjamin Netanyahu YOUTUBE SCREENSHOT
Alexis Tsipras, left, with Benjamin Netanyahu YOUTUBE SCREENSHOT

Greece has formally announced that it will not be abiding new guidelines established by the European Commission which dictates that all Israeli goods manufactured over the pre-1967 lines in the West Bank and Golan Heights will be labelled as “Products from the West Bank (Israeli settlements).”

Shortly after Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras visited Jerusalem, his foreign minister Nikos Kotzias confirmed the country’s decision in a letter to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. During his stay, Tsipras told Israeli President Reuven Riviln that it was a “great honour to be in your historic capital and to meet your excellencies.”

On Nov. 11, the European Commissioner in Brussels formally adopted the “notice on indication of origin of goods from the territories occupied by Israel since June 1967.” The guidelines are not new legislation, but clarify certain elements linked to the implementation of existing EU legislation.

Following the announcement, Jewish groups called the decision a “double standard,” with many citing other occupied territories such as Tibet or Western Sahara that have not warranted such guidelines. European Jewish Congress President Moshe Kantor said that there are “no comparable guidelines for any other territorial dispute or what are perceived as occupations anywhere else in the world.”

Greece is not the first country to reject the EU’s guidelines. Hungary’s foreign minister, Péter Szijjártó, said that Hungary would not be labelling products that originate in the Golan Heights or West Bank, saying that the guidelines are “irrational,” and do not “contribute to a solution [to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict], but causes damage.”

During a visit to Israel’s Knesset, European Parliament Delegation for Relations with Israel chairman Fulvio Martusciello said, “The decision to label products was a mistake. Europe is loud about Israel, but quiet about 200 other conflicts around the world.”

European Parliament Member Marijana Petir, of Croatia, reiterated Martusciello’s sentiments, saying, “We will not boycott Israeli goods.”

German Chancellor Angela Merkel called the labelling initiative “wrong,” though Berlin has yet to formally announce if it will be following the new guidelines.

On Sunday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced that Jerusalem would be suspending contacts between Israeli officials and European Union institutions and representatives involved in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.