The Obama administration sought to reassure Israel that a U.S. Customs reminder barring all products made in the West Bank and Gaza from being marketed in the United States under the label “Made in Israel” does not amount to a change in American policy.
News of the Custom’s January 23 reminder was first reported by the Forward on January 28.
The need for the reminder, said State Department deputy spokesman Mark Toner, came after Customs and Border Protection received “around 9 to 10” complaints regarding mislabeling of products originating in the West Bank.
“So this guidance was simply a restatement of previous requirements,” said Toner in the State Department’s daily press briefing. “There’s nothing new. This is simply a reissuance of guidance.”
A spokeswoman for the CBP would not provide specific information regarding investigations into alleged infractions of the labeling rules.
According to the 1995 Customs rule, products from the West Bank and Gaza should be labeled, when exported to the United States, as “Made in the West Bank” or “Made in Gaza” and should not carry a label claiming they are made in Israel. The rule, which was initially passed in order to encourage Palestinian exports the U.S., does not distinguish between goods made by Palestinians and those produced in Jewish settlers.
While the administration sought to clarify that re-issuing of the rule does not indicate any change in policy, Israeli officials expressed skepticism regarding the reason for posting a reminder to the 20-years old rule. “The Americans are making a policy move under the guise of a technical measure,” said an unnamed Israeli government source quoted in Ynet website. “It’s hard to believe that Customs officials will issue such a directive only because someone complained that the rule is not being enforced.”
Contact Nathan Guttman on Twitter @nathanguttman
Nathan Guttman, staff writer, is the Forward’s Washington bureau chief. He joined the staff in 2006 after serving for five years as Washington correspondent for the Israeli dailies Haaretz and The Jerusalem Post. In Israel, he was the features editor for Ha’aretz and chief editor of Channel 1 TV evening news. He was born in Canada and grew up in Israel. He is a graduate of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.