GOP Senators Urge Trump to Allow West Bank Goods to Be Labeled ‘Made in Israel’

November 19, 2020 Updated: November 19, 2020

A group of Republican senators led by Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) have submitted a letter to President Donald Trump calling for U.S. customs policy and guidelines to be amended to ensure that “Made in Israel” labels are placed on Israeli products produced in the Jewish settlements in the West Bank, Judea, and Samaria.

The Nov. 16 letter (pdf) signed by Cotton, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), and Kelly Loeffler (R-Ga.) urges the Trump administration to make the changes before Jan. 20.

They called on the president to undo a 2016 Obama administration measure that reestablished a 1995 policy that requires products made in Judea and Samaria to be labeled “Made in West Bank,” although they acknowledged that the policy doesn’t get enforced.

“While it is our understanding that this labeling policy is not enforced by U.S. authorities, we are concerned that a future administration could choose to enforce these rules,” the senators said.

The West Bank areas, as well as the Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem, were captured by Israel from Jordanian control in the 1967 Middle East war and annexed in a move not recognized internationally. The Trump administration in its first term sought to break the impasse in Israeli–Palestinian peace negotiations. In 2017, it decided to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, and set a challenge for Israelis and Palestinians to decide on the city’s final borders. The move was met with both support and ridicule.

“We appreciate your leadership and many achievements in support of Israel, our closest ally in the Middle East,” the senators wrote. “Unfortunately, the United Nations and some prominent members of the Democratic Party are working to oppose Israel and to support the anti-Semitic Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, which seeks to isolate and damage Israel economically.

“While it is our understanding that this labeling policy is not enforced by U.S. authorities, we are concerned that a future administration could choose to enforce these rules and thereby differentiate Israeli goods produced in Judea and Samaria, making them prime targets for BDS boycotts.

“Your administration should continue its string of pro-Israel policy changes by undoing these misguided Clinton-era guidelines, thereby allowing Israeli goods produced in Judea and Samaria to be labeled as ‘Made in Israel.’ This decision would be yet another achievement by your administration that would support Israel and would push back against anti-Semitism and the BDS movement,” the Republican senators wrote.

In 2016, Cotton attempted to pass legislation mandating the policy change, but it didn’t gather enough support in Congress.

The letter was also sent to Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Chad Wolf, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.