US asks goods makers to label products from settlements as ‘Made in Israel’

Updated 20 Nov 2020

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US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo walks with Israeli Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi (L) following a security briefing on Mount Bental in Golan heights on Nov 19. — AFP
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo walks with Israeli Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi (L) following a security briefing on Mount Bental in Golan heights on Nov 19. — AFP

WASHINGTON: The United States issued new guidelines on Thursday to label goods manufactured in Jewish settlements in the West Bank as “Made in Israel”, a move likely to irk human rights groups that see Israeli settlements as infringing on the rights of Palestinians.

“Today, the Department of State is initiating new guidelines to ensure that country of origin markings for Israeli and Palestinian goods are consistent with our reality-based foreign policy approach,” said a statement issued in Washington and signed by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

“All producers within areas where Israel exercises the relevant authorities – most notably Area C under the Oslo Accords will be required to mark goods as 'Product of Israel' or 'Made in Israel' when exporting to the United States,” the statement added.

Over the last four years, the Trump administration has initiated various policy shifts legitimising Israeli settlements in the West Bank that the international community considers illegal.

Pompeo reversed a State Department ruling last year that considered Israeli settlements illegal. Now, Washington recognises those as legal settlements.

The State Department noted that producers in the Area C operate within the economic and administrative framework of Israel and their goods should be treated accordingly.

The department also said that the update would eliminate confusion by recognising that producers in other parts of the West Bank are for all practical purposes administratively separate and that their goods should be marked accordingly.

The new US policy explained that “goods in areas of the West Bank where the Palestinian Authority maintains relevant authorities shall be marked as 'products of West Bank' and goods produced in Gaza will be marked as 'products of Gaza'".

Under the new approach, the United States will no longer accept “West Bank/Gaza” or similar markings, in recognition that Gaza and the West Bank are politically and administratively separate and should be treated accordingly.

“We will continue to oppose those countries and international institutions which delegitimise or penalise Israel and Israeli producers in the West Bank through malicious measures that fail to recognise the reality on the ground,” Pompeo said in the statement.

Published in Dawn, November 20th, 2020