Expert: Israel can, and should, fight EU labeling plans

Glaring EU inconsistency gives Israel a good case to fight 'settlement' labeling move - but if it doesn't this will only be the beginning.

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Ari Soffer,

Wine-making in Judea and Samaria
Wine-making in Judea and Samaria
Gershon Elinson/Flash 90

The European Union's decision to label Israeli produce from Judea, Samaria, the Golan Heights and Jerusalem could mark the start of something much bigger - but Israel should be able to effectively challenge it if it opts to do so.

International legal expert Professor Eugene Kontorovich of Northwestern University noted that the move is highly discriminatory, given that the EU does not apply to other cases they themselves define as identical.

"It is entirely inconsistent with EU policies towards other areas where they do not recognize a country' sovereignty," he said. "For example, in Western Sahara, the EU does not recognize Moroccan sovereignty but insists it is OK to label goods from there 'Made in Morocco.'

"It also contradicts all decisions of European courts on this issue. And it discriminates against Israel in a manner illegal under the World Trade Organization treaties."

Despite produce from the areas effected only amounting to a small percentage of total Israeli trade with the EU - around $50 milion per year according to officials' estimates - the impact of such a move could still be far-reaching. Indeed, the EU's own envoy to Israel recently said such a move would only be "the beginning" of efforts against Jewish communities.

"It creates an atmosphere of delegitimization, and paves the way for further and more severe restrictions, which are surely coming if these measures are not defeated. The goal is to create a legal ghetto for Israel," Kontorovich explained.

However, he predicted that Israel would have a good chance of overturning the decision if the government made efforts to challenge it, and warned against playing down the threat.

"Israel has a good chance of limiting or defeating these rules if it actually fights them - not by saying they are bad, but by actually bringing legal challenges in the appropriate fora," he said.

"The inconsistency of the EU's rules make them very vulnerable," he added, agreeing with Israeli officials' who brand the decision a double-standard. "But if Israel just decides that is only about settlements, only about a small amount of trade, and not worth fighting for, it will soon face far more serious restrictions. "