Israel Unfreezes Relations with EU After Labeling Row

Israel resumes talks after failing to persuade the EU to reverse its rules for products from the West Bank.

European Union foreign policy coordinator Federica Mogherini speaks with Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Berlin, Germany, October 22, 2015
European Union foreign policy coordinator Federica Mogherini speaks with Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Berlin, Germany, October 22, 2015 (EEAS)

Israel unfroze diplomatic relations with the European Union this weekend, having failed to persuade the bloc to revise its labeling rules for products imported from Jewish settlements on the West Bank.

Israel suspended talks with EU institutions about its relations with the Palestinians in November in response to a directive to member states to label goods made in settlements as such rather than “Made in Israel”.

Michael Koplow argues at his blog, Ottomans and Zionists, that conservative politicians in the country played up the suspension of talks as Israel using its power to change EU policy and ended up with nothing but more exasperated European counterparts.

“The bluster and rage turned out to be irrelevant at best and counterproductive at worst,” he writes.

Overestimation

Koplow blames a complete misreading or European public opinion and an overestimation on the part of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his government of Israel’s ability to affect it.

It is mind-boggling that Netanyahu or anyone else genuinely thought that suspending some diplomatic contacts with the EU was going to rattle it into changing its policies in fear of what might come next.

The settlement labeling initiative passed the European Parliament by 525 to seventy votes, he points out.

If anything, Israel’s response may have only strengthened the EU’s conviction that it made the right move.

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