In a move designed to hurt Israel's exports, France has adopted regulations barring products made in Jerusalem's suburbs from being labeled as “Made in Israel.” Instead, they will have to be labeled as "Made in an Israeli settlement."
The European Union does not consider lands on the east side of the 1967 "green line" – which runs through Jerusalem and includes the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, and the Golan Heights, which loom over the Sea of Galilee – to be legally part of Israel, according to an E.U. policy cited in the French decree. Israel has provided water, electricity, police and fire services, has collected taxes and held elections in those places for nearly half a century.
"France has chosen to apply a double standard with regards to Israel by ignoring the other 200 territorial disputes around the world, including those right on France’s own doorstep,” Israel's Foreign Ministry said in a statement. France faces territorial disputes involving its own overseas possessions, including those involving Mount Blanc, Banc du Geyser and Tromelin Island.
The Israeli ministry decried the move as unfair and hypocritical.
French and Israeli diplomats engaged in a brief Twitter spat Sunday. Michael Oren, Israel's head of public diplomacy, asked his countrymen to think twice before purchasing French goods. French Ambassador to Israel Hélène Le Gal responded that boycotts of Israeli products in France are prohibited by law.
The West Bank, Eastern Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip are all disputed between the Israeli government, which took control of these territories during the Six Day War of 1967, and Palestinians who hope to include them in a future Palestinian state.
Israel withdrew from the Gaza Strip in 2005. Israel also captured the Golan Heights from Syria in 1967, and Israeli negotiators have hinted in the past that the Golan Heights could be returned to Syria in a “Land-for-Peace” deal. Such a deal remains unlikely given the current Syrian Civil War.
“By choosing to label only Israeli products, France is holding Israel to a different standard than any other country in the world,” said Nathan Miller, president of strategic communications firm Miller Ink and former speechwriter for Israel’s Permanent Mission to the United Nations. “That is prejudice, plain and simple. Those who wish to act with moral clarity will oppose this initiative and others like it, which only advance conflict in the region.”
Some observers believe that the French policy may backfire.
“Ironically, and sadly, the people most negatively affected by the French and EU regulations will be the 25,000 Palestinians employed by Israelis in the West Bank, and earning as much as two to three times the wages paid by Palestinian factories,” said Yves Mamou in an article posted on the website of the Gatestone Institute, a New York-based think tank.
The policy should have little immediate effect, said Joel Braunold, Executive Director of the Alliance for Middle East Peace.
“The majority of products impacted by this will be agricultural and overall the impact will be limited,” Braunold said. “What the Israeli government is anxious about with this measure is that it could lead to other E.U. measures against financial companies or telecommunications businesses that are doing business in these areas.”