7 october 2015
Vice-President and High Representative Federica Mogherini
Dear Ms. Mogherini,
We are writing to urge the Commission to remain steadfast in its intention to publish a robust interpretative note to member states so that they will verify the accuracy of the label of origin applied to settlement goods by the Israeli exporters. There are several reasons:
Firstly, the label or origin applied by exporters in the past has sometimes been false.
Secondly, consumers have the legal right to know the origin of products they buy. If they do not want to buy products from settlements, they have the right not to do so.
Thirdly, that will be in accordance with the EU policy of differentiating between Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories. This policy is absolutely justified in order to avoid giving any legitimacy to either the occupation or the settlements.
Fourthly, and most important, is the political reason. The EU must start taking concrete steps to impose costs on Israel, since this Israeli government, like the previous one, has continued refusing to negotiate meaningfully to end the occupation along the internationally recognised parameters. Offering to restart negotiations “without preconditions” is disingenuous. It is intended to deny the international validity of the pre-1967 borders and the 78%-22% division of the land that they represent. The Palestinian Liberation Organisation has already made it's painful, historic concession of giving up 78% of Palestine and cannot be expected to do more.
The Israeli governments' motive in opposing the labeling plan was clearly, if inadvertently, revealed by the Israeli Ambassador to the EU. He said the labels are part of an attempt by Europe “to de facto determine the boundaries of Israel while it is up to the parties involved to decide”. There you have it: this Israeli government will oppose anything that could be a precedent for them accepting the division of the land sanctioned by international law. The other reasons given by Israeli officials for opposing the labeling plan are mere flummery, designed to obscure their true motive.
The Commission has mandated you to facilitate restarting negotiations between Israel and the PLO. You will understand from recent history that new negotiations will be fruitless unless Israel faces countervailing costs for not negotiating in good faith. In the absence of such costs, this Israeli government will continue to have what it sees as the best of both worlds, i.e. to continue keeping its current benefits from the EU and simultaneously keeping the benefits of the occupation. In those circumstances, you can continue issuing public rebukes to Israel over new settlement plans as often as you wish, but they will continue to be useless.
Promulgating an effective interpretative note is the least the Commission can do. We again urge you do that.
Dror Feiler, Chair of EJJP, Judar for Israelisk-Palestinsk Fred (Stockholm).
Arthur Goodman, Diplomatic and Parliamentary Liaison officer, Jews for Justice for Palestinians (London)
Secretary General of EEAS Helga Schmid
more to come