A quiet decision last month by the United States to reissue a 1995 order requiring goods made in the West Bank and Gaza Strip be labelled as such and not marked “made in Israel” has begun generating a firestorm as legal groups argue it represents a policy shift for the American government, Israel National News reported. Late Tuesday, Israeli officials reacted with outrage after hearing from the International Legal Forum (ILF) , which posited that the order was not merely reissued, but newly applied.
As the group pointed out, the 1995 directives were drawn up in response to the Oslo Accords, and applied only to Palestinian-made goods, insisting they be labelled accordingly and not as Israeli. Until January, products made by Israeli Jews and manufactured in Judea and Samaria could be labelled “made in Israel”. As of January 24, a ten percent fine will be levied on such products.
The ILF accused US Customs of “deceiving” Congress, Americans and the Israeli public with what amounts to a covert policy change. They are not the first to make these arguments; the Legal Grounds Initiative said much the same thing last month.
According to Israel’s Channel 2, Congress is trying to bring Secretary of State John Kerry in for a hearing on the issue. The news station noted that the State Department denies it was involved in the January decision, though State Department spokesperson Mark Toner did defend the move at a press conference after the news went public.
Deputy Defense Minister Eli Ben-Dahan (Jewish Home party) expressed his upset. “The United States is a close friend of the state of Israel, but we also have red lines.
“Labeling products, which means delegitimization of the settlements in Judea and Samaria, is something not to be done between friends. The possibility that this was a deception is most serious, and I intend to speak with the American Ambassador on the topic soon,” he added.
The Yesha Council of Judea and Samaria also responded to the ILF argument. “Unfortunately again it was discovered that the Barack Obama and Kerry administration is working in improper ways against the settlements.
“Today it was revealed that the surprising order regarding the labeling of products from Judea and Samaria does not match the orders established in the past in the US, and the publication was done with malice and fraud, while attempting to harm the state of Israel.
“Now the great question remains: to clarify who gave the order and what were their motives. We expect our friends, friends of Israel in the US, to act to change the outgoing order and not to remain silent until it is clear who stood behind this serious step,” the council concluded.