US Customs passed recently issued a reminder notice to importers in the US to not label products that come from the West Bank as "Made in Israel" and made it clear that those who do not comply would be sanctioned, according to a Channel 1 News report.
This is not a new guideline, but rather a reissuing of one from 1995 - which is a byproduct of the Paris Agreement and the Oslo Accords - that set different customs regulations for Israel and the West Bank. Human rights groups complained to US Customs that it was not enforcing its own guidelines, so that products from the settlements are sold in the United States under label "Made in Israel".
US Customs issued a message last week to all US importers under the title "West Bank Country of Origin Marking Requirements. The message reads: "The purpose of this message is to provide guidance to the trade community regarding the country of origin marking requirements for goods that are manufactured in the West Bank.
Per Treasury Decisions goods produced in the West Bank or Gaza Strip shall be marked as originating from ‘‘West Bank,’’ ‘‘Gaza,’’ ‘‘Gaza Strip,’’ ‘‘West Bank/Gaza,’’ ‘‘West Bank/Gaza Strip,’’ ‘‘West Bank and Gaza,’’ or ‘‘West Bank and Gaza Strip.’’ It is not acceptable to mark the aforementioned goods with the words ‘‘Israel,’’ ‘‘Made in Israel,’’ ‘‘Occupied Territories-Israel,’’ or any variation thereof. Goods that are erroneously marked as products of Israel will be subject to an enforcement action carried out by U.S. Customs and Border Protection. Goods entering the United States must conform to the U.S. marking statute and regulations promulgated thereunder.
This message in no way supersedes prior rulings or regulations, nor does it impose additional requirements with respect to merchandise imported from the West Bank, Gaza Strip, or Israel."
State Department spokesman Mark Toner on Thursday, responding to questions regarding the guidelines, said that "this guidance was simply a restatement of previous requirements that the Customs and Border Protection has made clear that it in no way supersedes prior rulings or regulations, nor does it impose additional requirements with respect to merchandise imported from the West Bank, Gaza Strip, or Israel. So there’s nothing new. This is simply a reissuance of guidance."
US officials stated that this is not a political directive that came from the White House or the State Department. But in Jerusalem the directive came as a complete surprise and caused embarrassment to the Foreign Ministry and the Ministry of Economy, which both refrained from any reference to the notice.
An Israeli official said that "it is hard to believe that customs officials would randomly decide to publish a notice just because someone complained that guidelines are not being enforced. It's convenient for them to present it as being a technical issue but in the US things never happen just by chance."
He went on to say that "under the guise of a technical notice the Americans are taking a political step. Israel will have to decide whether this is a technical reissuing of guidelines or a politically important directive.