Financial Times Calls on U.S., European Countries to Threaten Ban on West Bank Imports

The international business daily is calling on the United States and countries in Europe to threaten to ban imports of products produced in West Bank settlements

The Financial Times published an editorial on Tuesday calling on Western countries to threaten to take practical steps against Israeli settler violence in the West Bank, including threatening a boycott of products made in the settlements.

‘Given the gravity of what is happening,’ the newspaper editorial reads, ‘Washington and European capitals – which mostly consider Israeli settlements illegal and support a two-state solution – should take a tougher line. That means threatening to ban imports of goods produced in the settlements, and making clear that Israeli entities in occupied territory will not be treated as part of Israel.’

The editorial makes reference to the current expansion of West Bank settlements by the Israeli government, and the escalation of the security situation between Israel and the Palestinians.

While ‘the U.S. has said it opposes unilateral actions by Israel to accelerate West Bank settlements that ‘make a two-state solution more difficult to achieve,’ more drastic action is needed to back up this assertion, the newspaper editorial urges.

The editorial drew a parallel between the West’s position on West Bank settlements and the opposition to the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

“A robust stance towards Netanyahu’s extremist government is important not just to try to quell violence in the West Bank and save what may be left of the peace process, but to send a broader message,” the Financial Times stated. “While the situations are extremely different, Palestinians and Muslims across the Middle East note that the West has vigorously countered Russia’s seizure of parts of Ukraine but has long been muted in its reaction to Israel’s creeping annexation of the West Bank.”

The editorial concluded by saying, “If the U.S. and Europe want countries elsewhere to join their condemnation of Moscow, they must avoid appearing hypocritical by failing properly to condemn unacceptable behavior when it comes from a traditional ally.”

The comparison in the international community between the Israeli occupation and the Russian invasion and occupation of portions of Ukraine, which has been met by fervent opposition throughout the West, has prompted concern in Israel.

Last week, Haaretz reported that the European Union has stepped up its enforcement of labeling of products produced in West Bank settlements through a plan requiring European importers to use a special code to confirm that the products are not from the settlements.

Last year, the EU adopted similar rules to ensure that products were not being imported from Russian-occupied areas of Ukraine. In the case of products from those areas, however, the EU imposed a complete ban on imports. In the case of West Bank settlement products, the merchandise is only denied preferential status for customs duties that is accorded to products from Israel proper.

The new EU directive on settlement products has received little media attention in Israel, but some EU member countries, including Spain and Belgium, have already revised their own trade directives, published online. This is the first such step by the EU since a decision was made in 2015 requiring the labeling of settlement products.

On the other hand, the government of the United Kingdom, which is no longer an EU member state, is advancing legislation that would bar local governments in the country from officially boycotting Israel or the settlements. The Financial Times editorial expressed opposition to the bill, saying that it “sends the wrong message” to Israel.

Last week, another British daily, the Guardian, reported that members of parliament from the ruling Conservative Party had expressed concern over the legislation and called for it to be softened. One lawmaker told the newspaper: “We should not do country-specific legislation as it undermines our foreign policy.”

This is not the first Financial Times editorial to feature a criticism of Israel. In February, the newspaper denounced the judicial overhaul by Benjamin Netanyahu’s government in its editorial as “an extensive power grab,’ saying that ‘These are dark days for Israel.’

The New York Times, The Washington Post and The Economist had all also previously come out explicitly against the plan to defang Israel’s judiciary. The Wall Street Journal, however, defended the reforms.