clamps down on imports from Israels illegal settlements
Michael White, political editor
Friday April 4, 2003
Tony Blair's government tightened the screws on Israel's illegal
Bank settlements yesterday by warning British food and agricultural
importers that they will now be liable for taxes on zero-rated goods
which are not genuinely Israeli.
To the delight of Labour MPs critical of the settlements, widely
as a barrier to peace between Israel and the Palestinians, the
Treasury issued a written commons statement which signals a
tightening up of customs checks in response to Israeli stonewalling
on the exact origins of its exports.
John Healey, the economic secretary in Gordon Brown's team, said
the latest agreement between Israel and the EU to provide zero-rates
of duty on Israeli products does not extend to goods originating
territories occupied during the 1967 war, including Gaza and the
"These settlements are illegal under international law, they
part of Israel," one Labour MP said yesterday. "By buying
we are subsidising these settlements."
Less than 10% of Israel's farms exports are said to emanate from
West Bank, but such goods are used to defray the heavy cost of
subsidising the settlements from Palestinian attacks.
Mr Healey told MPs that zero-rating may be denied "where there
reasonable doubt as to entitlement". Israel has not denied
goods from the West Bank as Israeli.
The EU is also tightening up its controls.
Britain's active role in persuading President George Bush to embrace
the "road map" to restore the Middle East peace process
- as part of
the US regional strategy against Iraq - has prompted hostile
commentary in Tel Aviv.
Mr Healey said that Israel had failed to prove the legitimacy of
goods suspected of coming from the occupied territories.
"Customs and excise have now begun issuing duty demands to
importers where there is reason to suspect that goods may have
originated in Israeli settlements in the occupied territories,"
Israel will still be able to export goods produced in settlements,
but they will not be eligible for the special rates of duty.