EU to label goods from occupied territories

The European Union pushed ahead on Wednesday with rules for labelling consumer goods from Jewish-owned businesses and farms in the occupied areas, creating new strains in relations between Europe and Israel.

European officials played down the move, saying the guidelines merely clarified existing rules, but Israeli leaders condemned it as provocative, discriminatory and intended to fuel a growing international movement to boycott the country.

The issue has been percolating for years, and Israel has lobbied hard against the labelling requirements. The European Union’s decision to go ahead came against the backdrop of several European countries formally or symbolically recognizing a Palestinian state, actions that have prompted deep unease in Israel.

The European Union is Israel’s top trading partner, with total commerce estimated at 30 billion euros, or $32 billion, last year: €13 billion in imports from Israel and €17 billion in exports to Israel.