US to label goods from Israeli settlements in West Bank as 'Made in Israel'


Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Thursday issued new guidelines to label Israeli goods made in settlements in the West Bank as “Made in Israel,” a move likely to draw cheers from the pro-settlement community and criticism from human rights groups that condemn Israeli settlements as infringing on the rights of Palestinians.

Pompeo announced the policy shift while on travel to Israel and ahead of a visit to the Israeli settlement of Psagot in the West Bank, marking the first time a sitting secretary of State has traveled to an Israeli settlement. 

The Trump administration has supported numerous policy shifts legitimizing Israeli settlements in the West Bank that the international community considers illegal. Pompeo reversed a State Department ruling last year that the U.S. would no longer consider Israeli settlements illegal. 

Pompeo said the new State Department guidance applies to Israeli goods made in areas “where Israel exercises the relevant authorities,” notably settlements in Area C of the West Bank — territory that is under Israeli civil and military control as determined by the 1993 Oslo Accords. 

Such products when exported to the United States will be labeled as “Israel,” “Product of Israel” or “Made in Israel.”

Pompeo further said that products made in territory under the control of the Palestinian Authority will be recognized as products of the “West Bank” and a separate label would be given to products made in Gaza.

In a statement on Thursday, the secretary said the new policy recognizes that the territories are separately administered by the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank and Hamas in the Gaza Strip. 

“Under the new approach, we 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,” he said in a statement.  

Pompeo is considered a top contender for the 2024 Republican presidential ticket, and pro-Israel bona fides are typically a high selling point for support among the voting base. He received personal praise from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday, who thanked the secretary of State.  

"Thank you, Mike, for your tremendous friendship, and for your invaluable contribution to our alliance and to Israel’s security and to the expansion of the circle of peace," Netanyahu said. "Thank you, friend, and we hope to see you next year in Jerusalem."

The move by the Trump administration further puts the U.S. at odds with the European Union. The EU's top court ruled in November 2019 that exports to the EU from Israeli settlements must be specifically labeled from its place of origin and would not accept a “Made in Israel” tag. 

Pompeo’s announcement is likely to receive backlash from European governments and human rights groups that argue Israeli settlements in the West Bank contribute to human rights abuses against Palestinians and harm efforts to reach a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. 

Pompeo posted a photo of himself at the Psagot winery on Twitter, saying these types of businesses “have been targeted by pernicious EU labeling efforts that facilitate the boycott of Israeli companies.”

The policy shift also comes as Pompeo announced that the State Department would identify and label as anti-Semitic organizations it believes support the "BDS" movement.

The boycott, divestment and sanctions movement is an organized effort to boycott Israel culturally, academically and politically over its settlement policies. 

Opponents of the BDS movement say it seeks to delegitimize and internationally isolate Israel and pressure it into negotiations with the Palestinians. 

Supporters say it is a legitimate expression of free speech. The State Department’s updated policy is expected to target human rights groups that are critical of Israel, including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, in a move the groups say will harm its efforts to monitor human rights across the world. 

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