On January 23, 2016 the U.S customs and Border Protection Department issued a statement instructing that products imported from the Israeli controlled areas in the West Bank not be labeled “made in Israel”. The State Department claimed that it was simply reissuing a 20 year old guideline which will from now on be enforced, contrary to policy and practice enacted until then. However, is that an accurate portrayal of the reality? According to an extensive legal research by the International Legal forum (ILF), the answer is no.
This guideline was originally published by the U.S Customs and Border Protection, at the recommendation of the State Department on April 6, 1995. According to the guideline, in the wake of the signing of the Oslo Accords and the creation of the Palestinian Authority, it was agreed that the PA would be responsible for regulating its affairs in these issues. Therefore, in order to accurately reflect the authority under which the products were produced, they should be marked as made in the “West Bank” and not “Israel” as was the practice until such time.
Moreover, just a few days prior, on March 27, 1995, a more detailed and explicit guideline was issued. Article 2 of this guideline states that it “applies only to goods produced in the areas for which arrangements are being established for Palestinian interim self-government”, namely – only products imported from areas under the PA control, meaning products imported from areas under Israeli control are not included.
Article 4 makes the American intentions even clearer, specifying that “Jurisdiction of the [Palestinian] Council will cover West Bank and Gaza strip territory except for issues that will be negotiated in the permanent status negotiations: Jerusalem, settlements, and Israelis”. I.E., in order to avoid any doubt, the article explicitly excluded Israeli controlled areas, using similar language to that used in the Oslo Accords.
The ILF presented this information to representatives of the Israeli Minister of Justice, Ayelet Shaked, and together with Zionists of America (ZOA), also to members of congress, including Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz.
Pursuant to the sharing of this new information legislation properly regulating this issue was submitted in Congress. Members of congress also began exploring the possibility of holding a hearing for the State Department and Secretary of State John Kerry, regarding this information and its possible meaning for misleading Congress and both the American and Israeli public.