WASHINGTON, Thursday, July 21, 2022 (WAFA) – Amnesty International UK Wednesday warned that a new UK trade deal with Israel could allow Israel to consolidate its settler-colonialism and apartheid in the occupied Palestinian territories.
The global organization said in a press release that it submitted a submission to the UK Government consultation spelling out dangers of loosely-drafted deal that would allow Israeli exporters to ‘pass off’ settlement goods as Israeli ones.
Amnesty International has said that a new UK trade deal with Israel “must not be a betrayal of Palestinians’ human rights”, as negotiations on the deal were set to begin later Wednesday.
According to the press release, UK International Trade Secretary Anne-Marie Trevelyan was due to meet the Israeli Ambassador to the UK Tzipi Hotovely in London Wednesday afternoon to begin talks on the issue.
“The UK has recently conducted a consultation over plans to negotiate a new UK-Israel Free Trade Agreement this year which will “upgrade” an existing Trade and Partnership Deal with Israel,” the statement read.
Amnesty warned that “a poorly-drafted deal could allow the Israeli authorities to consolidate unfounded claims to occupied Palestinian land, expand illegal settlements, and perpetuate the system of apartheid associated with this.”
“A new trade deal with Israel must not be a betrayal of Palestinians’ human rights and must uphold the UK’s obligations under international law,” Peter Frankental, Amnesty International UK’s Economic Affairs Director, said.
“In their haste to agree a shiny new trade deal with Israel, there’s a distinct danger that UK negotiators will fail to ensure absolute clarity over the precise origins of goods destined for the UK market.”
“Unfortunately, the faulty EU-Israel trade arrangement is currently allowing Israeli exporters to pass off settlement goods as Israeli ones - a UK Free Trade Agreement needs to be distinctly better than this,” he added.
“The bottom line here is that UK-Israel trade should not incentivise Israel’s system of apartheid against the Palestinians,” he went on to say.
Amnesty noted that it has sent a 19-page briefing to the Department of Trade setting out how the agreement should be framed to ensure it doesn’t reinforce Israel’s breaches of international law and is consistent with the UK’s current non-recognition of Israeli colonial settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.
Such differentiation within a trade agreement, requires robust monitoring and enforcement of WTO rules of origin concerning the sourcing of goods, warned Amnesty.
“In line with international law, the UK government currently does not recognise as a legitimate part of Israel the territories that Israel has militarily occupied since June 1967 - a stance that is supported by the overwhelming majority of the international community and is reflected in numerous UN resolutions.”
“However, Amnesty is concerned that a lack of clarity in the terms of a new trade deal could nevertheless see the UK treating goods and services sourced from Israeli settlements built on stolen Palestinian land as legitimate items of trade, thus tacitly supporting Israel’s wider occupation, settlement and annexation project.”
“A major source of concern, explains Amnesty’s briefing, is that the new trade deal is likely to closely follow the terms of an existing EU-Israel Association Agreement which has proved unable to fully demarcate goods according to place of origin - allowing Israel to pass off items produced within its illegal settlements on occupied Palestinian land as coming from Israel.”
“The current technical arrangement to exclude products originating in Israeli settlements from preferential market access essentially depends on importers’ own checking of the postcodes listed on Israeli proofs of origin, and on those importers not claiming preferences when postcodes indicate that the goods in question originate in the settlements. This has created an enforcement gap because customs authorities remain largely unaware of the volumes and characteristics of the goods originating in the settlements that have escaped their inspection, and for which preferential treatment has been claimed and granted.”
The organization called on the UK to ensure that there is a clear, explicit and unambiguous statement emphasizing the UK’s non-recognition of the Occupied Palestinian Territories as being part of the State of Israel; and a definition of territorial scope that explicitly and unequivocally excludes products and services from Israeli settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territories from the scope of the agreement.
It also called on the UK to ensure that there is a mutually-agreed arrangement whereby so-called “preferential rules of origin” clearly prevent products and services originating from Israeli settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territories from being designated as originating in Israel.
Amnesty emphasized that “a renegotiated trade agreement needs to ensure that the UK can readily differentiate between goods originating in Israel and goods originating in the Occupied Palestinian Territories for the purpose of determining tariff and quota treatment” while urging the UK to “ban the import of all goods produced in Israel’s illegal settlements and help put an end to the multimillion-pound profits that have incentivised mass human rights violations against Palestinians.”
While Israel settlement goods must not be designated as “Israeli”, said Amnesty, it is also important that Palestinian products are in no way prejudiced by the Israel trade agreement.