(JTA) — The head of the European Parliament’s main body for promoting relations with Israel announced his opposition to new guidelines on labeling products from the West Bank.
Fulvio Martusciello, the chair of the European Parliament Delegation for Relations with Israel, said Tuesday that he sides with Israel regarding its criticism of the European Commission’s issuing of guidelines requiring such labeling.
“We Europeans have not been the best partner and we are pushing back this partnership,”Martusciello said in a speech in Brussels before members of the American Jewish Committee. The guidelines, he added, were designed to “stop products from beyond the 1967 Green Line” and to exert political pressure on Israel to push forward peace talks with Palestinians.
Israeli officials have been outspoken in their opposition to the new labeling, which was adopted Wednesday by the European Commission in Brussels.
Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely said the guidelines were discriminatory and designed to promote a boycott. In September, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu invoked European anti-Semitism when he said about the plan: “We have historical memory of what happened when Europe labeled Jewish products.”
A senior European diplomat told JTA such allusions are “emotional” and “without political basis.” He added they were designed to give clarity to consumers, not to boycott Israel.
Still, the new guidelines were subject to last-minute discussions in Brussels because of their sensitivity, according to the news site EUobserver.com.
According to a draft of the guidelines obtained by the news website, they will recommend that labels indicate not only the geographical origin of West Bank products, but also whether they originate from Palestinian or Israeli producers.