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Eu adds duties to settlement products { November 26 2003 }

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Wed., November 26, 2003 Kislev 1, 5764
Another cost of the settlements

After continual applied pressure by the European
Union, Minister Ehud Olmert this week deigned to
geographically label Israeli products sent to
Europe. As minister of industry and commerce,
Olmert understood that he had to solve the
long-standing problem between the EU and Israel, a
dispute that had begun claiming a heavy price from
all Israeli exports to Europe.

Israel enjoys a free trade agreement with the EU, in
which it can export to EU countries without customs and
tariffs on its products. But the Europeans, who oppose
Israel's policy in the territories, aren't ready to
grant the special conditions to the enterprises based in
the territories, because they help pay for the
settlements in the territories, which the Europeans are

Three years of intifada have deteriorated
Israel's standing in Europe. One of its
expressions has been stepped-up economic
pressure. That pressure has made some European
countries require Israeli exporters to pay
customs on goods suspected of being
manufactured in the territories, until their
precise origins can be determined. A company
with the word Golan in its name was forced to
pay full customs, and no explanations that the
company is located inside the Green Line
helped. Recently, some 4,000 separate export
packages on their way from Israel to Europe -
to the tune of several hundred million dollars
- were examined and the exporters were required
to post guarantees equal to 5-6 percent of the
value of the items until the origins were
determined. In Spain, France and Italy, there
were cases in which Israeli exporters were
required to make retroactive deposits in
exports from the previous three years.

Israel exports some $12 billion a year to the
EU, with the exports from the settlements worth
only $120 million. The customs fees on the $120
million are about $7 million. Has it been worth
endangering $12 billion for the sake of the $7

Obviously, the agreement Olmert reached is the
wise approach. Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom's
opposition is strange. He tried to get a better
deal with the Europeans and failed. His tactic
was to try to gain time.

Shalom also claims that "with a wave of his hand
Olmert set Israel's borders" and blamed him for
recognizing the Green Line. But Olmert has not
suddenly turned into a Peace Now activist. He
wanted to solve a problem; and the Europeans,
for their part, know exactly where the Green
Line goes, and their views are known. Now the
factories and businesses in the territories
want to be compensated for the customs, so, in
the calculations of how many billions the
citizens of Israel have paid for the
territories, that money has to be added in.
Hopefully, the demand will be turned down.

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