Chicken and eggs from the occupied West Bank and the annexed east Jerusalem will no longer be seen on European plates, the EU has ruled, reportedly citing gaps in public health standards between the two Jewish zones and the state.
The European Union has informed the Israeli Agricultural Ministry that the veterinary standards of supervision in the Palestinian areas it had taken over after the six-day 1967 Middle East War are not accepted under the circumstances, Israeli news website Walla reported on Thursday.
Poultry and eggs originating from the occupied territories will therefore not be accepted.
The EU, however, also went on to explain its decision in a more political light. It told the ministry that the health standards originate in a new directive announced last July and signed in January, which prohibits the 28-nation bloc from dealings or any other form of cooperation with businesses in the occupied territories.
Israel’s politics with regard to the occupied Palestinian territories have been a source of diplomatic strife with the West, which has criticized the Jewish state for being a prime force in the breakdown of reconciliation efforts with its neighbor.
The settlements in the West Bank are illegal under international law, and in March, the Arab League has supported Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’s refusal to recognize Israel as a ‘Jewish state’, putting a further dent in political relations between the two. Palestinian aspirations for statehood extend into the West Bank, Gaza Strip, with the capital in east Jerusalem – something Israeli leader Binyamin Netanyahu strongly disagrees with.
Regarding the poultry issue “[it], like many other trade issues that come up in the framework of trade relations between Israel and the European Union, will be addressed within the framework of the ongoing professional dialogue between the parties," an agricultural ministry official was cited by Walla as saying.
The ministry replied to the EU’s move by saying that the public health guidelines in Israel and the West Bank are identical, and therefore those in the latter do not violate international standards. But this wasn’t enough for the EU, whose fresh directive on doing business with the occupied territories came as a surprise to Tel Aviv.
It should be noted that the move will not hit Israeli poultry that hard, since it and “other poultry-related products from the settlements account for under 5 percent of all such products in Israel,” according to the Israeli news website.
Israel has not been doing well on the international trade arena amid new tensions in trade relations with the international community, which arose out of the faltering Palestinian peace talks. A growing international boycott campaign has been threatening the Jewish economy in the wake of continuing settlement construction in the West Bank.
In February, Norway’s Finance Ministry directed the country’s $810 billion sovereign oil fund to boycott two Israeli firms “due to contribution to serious violations of individual rights in war or conflict, through the construction of settlements in East Jerusalem.” It was around that time that the EU had adopted the new regulation on the cessation of business relations with settlements in the West Bank, amid growing criticism from the likes of the UN.