November 22, 2020 | From The Jerusalem Post
The US will allow goods produced in West Bank settlements to be labeled products of Israel as opposed to the West Bank, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced on Thursday, during the first-ever visit by someone in his position to an Israeli entity in Judea and Samaria.
The new guidelines “ensure that country of origin markings for Israeli and Palestinian good are consistent with our reality-based foreign policy approach,” Pompeo said. . . .
The US will also no longer accept labels that say “West Bank\Gaza” for Palestinian-made goods; they must say either West Bank or Gaza because the areas are “politically and administratively separate.”
Pompeo reversed 25 years of policy requiring such products to be labeled as made in the West Bank. The Clinton administration required goods from settlements to be labeled as coming from the West Bank following the Oslo Accords. Those rules were not enforced, but in 2016, the Obama administration warned that labeling settlement goods as products of Israel could carry a fine.
This announcement also goes beyond the Trump administration’s “Vision for Peace,” which would have allowed Israel to extend its sovereignty to up to 30% of the West Bank. Now, anything produced in Area C, which makes up about 60% of the area, would be labeled “Made in Israel.”
The change in policy came on the same day that Pompeo announced that the State Department considers the anti-Israel boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement to be illegal. That announcement included a denunciation of “discriminatory labeling” and attempts to limit trade with Israel or “any territory controlled by Israel,” meaning Judea and Samaria.”
Pompeo made the announcement during the first visit by a US secretary of state to an Israeli entity in Judea and Samaria, stopping at the Psagot Winery in the Shaar Binyamin Industrial Park on Thursday.
Pompeo’s visit was called a private one, and no Israeli government officials joined him.
His predecessors as secretary of state have only visited the West Bank under the auspices of the Palestinian Authority, but never in a settlement, because they held Israel’s presence there to be illegitimate.
Under Pompeo, in contrast, the State Department holds that Israeli settlements are not inherently illegal. Pompeo went further than that simple statement, by declaring the Jews had a historic and religious right to the land, something which no past US administration has ever recognized. In addition, he refers to the area by its Biblical name, Judea and Samaria.
The winery, established two decades ago, has been at the forefront of the battle to legitimize West Bank settlements, particularly the issue of product labeling, and named a special vintage after Pompeo, following the policy change on the status of settlements.
Pompeo was met at the Psagot Winery by a small protest from the left-wing group Peace Now. Activists stood outside the winery as Pompeo’s helicopter landed, holding signs that said, “USA Stop Undermining Peace,” and “Occupied Territory Can’t Be Normalized.”
Peace Now said of the visit: “By going to Psagot Winery, Secretary of State Pompeo seems to be doubling down on his administration’s insistence that settlements are not illegal, despite the overwhelming evidence and international consensus.
“Fortunately, this last pathetic attempt to undermine the prospects for peace by normalizing the settlements will fail as badly as the Trump Plan did,” it said.
The Israeli Right, however, holds that Pompeo’s visit builds on the Trump administration’s work to strengthen the legality of the settlements.
“Secretary Pompeo’s visit to Psagot is a historic event, showing that the US does not only regard Israeli settlements as not illegal “per se,” but actually legal and legitimate in practice,” Prof. Eugene Kontorovich, director of International Law at the Jerusalem-based Kohelet Policy Forum said. “While Pompeo’s successor is unlikely to repeat this visit, he cannot undo it either.”
Pompeo and his wife visited the City of David in Jerusalem’s Old City on Thursday, as well as Qasr el-Yahud in the Jordan Valley, the site of Jesus’ baptism and where the Jewish people crossed the Jordan River into Israel 40 years after the Exodus from Egypt.