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Netanyahu and Abbas Shake Hands as EU Ejected from Peace Talks

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas shook hands during a photo session at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris on Monday, marking the first time the leaders met face to face since 2010, The Jerusalem Post reported.

Netanyahu also spoke briefly with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Francois Hollande, British Prime Minister David Cameron, and U.S. President Barack Obama during the conference. The prime minister has longer meetings scheduled with a number of leaders who are in attendance, including Hollande and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The brief contact between Netanyahu and Abbas came a day after Israel announced that it was suspending contact with European Union bodies that are involved in peace efforts with the Palestinians due to the EU’s newly implemented labeling policy for Israeli goods produced beyond the 1949 armistice lines, the Post reported on Monday.

An Israeli diplomatic source said that in the coming days the Foreign Ministry would hold discussions regarding the concrete implications of the move. The goal, the source said, was to send an unmistakable message to the Europeans of Israel’s displeasure at the settlement labeling move, which he said both discriminates against Israel relative to other conflict areas in the world, and which “has the smell of a boycott.”

“It is unthinkable that Israel will hold discussions with EU institutions on how to move the diplomatic process forward at the same time as it initiates steps against Israel,” he said.

In a paper (.pdf) published this past October, legal scholars Avi Bell and Eugene Kontorovich noted that there are approximately 200 territorial disputes worldwide. “Despite the ubiquity of territorial disagreements and settlement practices,” they wrote, “the EU has never unilaterally adopted a regulation requiring geographic labelling contrary to the exporting country’s certificate of origination,” except in the case of Israel. They later argued that the EU’s new guidelines amount to “unlawful trade barriers” that “violate European duties under multilateral and bilateral trade agreements.”

Danielle Pletka, a senior vice-president at the American Enterprise Institute, recently wrote that the EU’s labeling decision echoed past European practices. “What, you say, but there are no Jews occupying those other places? We only condemn the Jews?” Pletka asked. “Well, of course. Because only the Jews are especially worthy of EU condemnation. Next, a yellow star. Now that would be bold.”

[Photo: Twitter screenshot ]