A group of Republican senators led by Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) sent a letter to President Trump this week urging him to issue an executive order allowing goods produced in the Jewish settlements in the West Bank to be labeled “Made in Israel." Axios obtained a copy of the letter.
Why it matters: While the rest of the world views the settlements as illegal under international law and not part of Israel, the Trump administration has taken several steps intended to legitimize them and blur the differentiation between Israel and the West Bank.
- The letter — signed by Sens. Cotton, Ted Cruz (R-Texas), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and Kelly Loeffler (R-Ga.) — pushes the administration to issue the order before Jan. 20.
The letter was sent to Trump, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and acting Secretary of Homeland Security Chad Wolf.
- The senators warned that a Biden administration would return to a policy of differentiating between Israel and the Jewish settlements in the West Bank.
- That would make goods from the settlements “prime targets for BDS boycotts," they wrote, referring to the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement.
- Since 1967, all previous U.S. administrations had treated the West Bank and Golan Heights as occupied territory and the settlements as illegitimate.
- In 1995, after the Oslo Accords were signed and the Palestinian Authority was formed, the Clinton administration issued guidelines that required goods from the settlements to be labeled as “made in the West Bank." The guidelines were not really enforced.
- In 2016, the Obama administration republished the guidelines and warned that labeling settlement goods as “Made in Israel” could lead to fines. This was seen at the time as a diplomatic signal to Israel over settlement expansions.
What they're saying: The senators claimed that the UN and prominent members of the Democratic Party support BDS and seek to damage Israel economically.
- “Your administration should undo these misguided Clinton-era guidelines. …This decision would support Israel and push back against anti-Semitism and the BDS movement," they wrote.
What to watch: The move would put another hurdle in place for Biden if, as expected, he seeks to roll back Trump's policies on settlements.
Driving the news: Pompeo is expected to be the first U.S. secretary of state to visit an Israeli settlement in the West Bank tomorrow.
Go deeper: Pompeo's unprecedented trip