State Department Spokesman John Kirby said that the European Union’s controversial labeling guidelines, which apply to Israeli products manufactured beyond the 1949 armistice lines, do not constitute a boycott of Israel and are consistent with the Obama administration’s policy, the Washington Free Beacon reported on Tuesday.
During a press briefing on Tuesday, Associated Press reporter Matt Lee asked Kirby about the EU’s recent decision to view its agreements with Israel as being inapplicable in the West Bank and Golan Heights.
Asked about the latest European moves, State Department spokesman John Kirby told reporters that they were in line with administration policy.
“In terms of the issue with the agreements and omitting from them the West Bank and Gaza, you also, you think that that, you think that’s okay?” Kirby was asked by Associated Press reporter Matthew Lee. “In other words, you agree with the EU that this does not indicate a boycott, or isn’t a boycott, or won’t lead to one?”
“That’s right,” Kirby responded.
Kirby reiterated his claim that the guidelines are not the equivalent of a boycott, but did not answer as to whether they would lead to one.
Gerald Steinberg, president of the watchdog group NGO Monitor, told a special session of Knesset last year that organizations that encouraged the EU to adopt the labeling policy see the marking of Israeli goods produced beyond the Green Line as a “first step” towards a wider boycott of Israel.
Israeli journalist Ben Dror Yemini supported Steinberg’s assertion, writing that the movement to push the EU to label Israeli products was spearheaded by groups that are part of a broader anti-Israel boycott coalition.
Kirby’s support of the guidelines clear up ambiguities that stemmed from the position expressed by State Department Deputy Spokesperson Mark Toner, who in November both rejected boycotts of Israel and acknowledged that the labeling policy “could be perceived as a step on the way” to a boycott, but did not outright condemn or support it.
[Photo: State Department ]