(JTA) — The Netherlands opposes any kind of import ban on Israeli products, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said, though it must enforce European Union legislation on labeling settlement goods.
“I would like to stress that the Netherlands opposes any type of import ban or the boycott of Israeli products,” a Dutch official wrote in Rutte’s name last month to the European Jewish Congress, or EJC.
The letter, obtained by JTA, was sent to EJC President Moshe Kantor in response to Kantor’s letter to several EU heads of states, including Rutte, in which Kantor warned that labeling products from areas the European Union considers as illegal settlements was counterproductive to efforts to reach a peace settlement between the Israelis and Palestinians.
Rutte’s letter followed reports in July that several Dutch supermarkets were boycotting settlement goods, though the supermarkets denied they had such a policy.
In March, the Dutch government advised business owners to refrain from labeling products from the Golan Heights, West Bank and eastern Jerusalem as made in Israel.
A decision last year by the EU Foreign Affairs Council to label settlement goods “obliges the Dutch government to fully and effectively enforce existing E.U. legislation,” Rutte wrote.
The council has yet to release practical guidelines on labeling.
British Foreign Secretary William Hague struck a less conciliatory note in his reply to Kantor’s letter.
“I am afraid that I cannot agree with your concerns about E.U. labeling of settlement produce,” he wrote. “The settlements are illegal under international law, an obstacle to peace.”
On Sept. 16, Kantor published a full-page ad in the Financial Times of London arguing against new EU guidelines prohibiting EU funding for Israeli projects in areas the European Union considers settlements.
The ad said the guidelines singled out Israel for criticism and “serve to minimize the chances for lasting peace.”