Washington, D.C.— Senator Tom Cotton (R-Arkansas) today introduced legislation that would rescind the Obama administration’s recent policy directive requiring the special labeling of Israeli goods produced in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Cotton released the following statement on the bill:
“The United States must stand with Israel and against any action to undermine its legitimacy. The Obama administration, however, last week issued a policy directive that required the special labeling of goods produced in the disputed territories, and threatened enforcement actions against those who do not comply. That directive plays right into the hands of those who are driving insidious efforts to boycott Israeli goods. While some say the directive merely restates an old labeling rule originally drafted 20 years ago with no intention to stigmatize Israel, the truth is the rule was lightly if ever enforced and serves little purpose today. Its vigorous enforcement now — coming after a concerted lobbying campaign on the part of groups looking to weaken Israel — will have the undeniable effect of isolating our closest friend in the Middle East and giving other nations an excuse to unfairly treat Israel in trade relations. That is why I’m introducing a bill today to rescind the administration’s nonsensical rule and halt this latest effort to put daylight between the United States and Israel. There is an effort in some quarters around the globe to delegitimize Israel. Those behind it know they are too weak politically and too wrong morally to succeed in quick and dramatic fashion. They instead seek to achieve their aims gradually with incremental steps like labeling rules. It’s incumbent on all those who stand with Israel therefore to remain ever vigilant.”
Background: On January 23, the U.S. Customs & Border Protection agency issued guidance indicating that “[i]t is not acceptable to mark” goods produced in the West Bank or Gaza Strip as originating from Israel. The guidance revived a 1995 labeling rule that has rarely been enforced. The guidance follows a European Union decision in November 2015 requiring special labeling for products produced in the disputed territories and in Israeli settlements.