Gift gaffe: US embassy sends Israeli West Bank wine to NGOs opposed to settlements

© Stefano Rellandini
Members of Peace Now, a group opposed to Israeli settlements in the West Bank, had to do a double take when they opened up a gift basket from the US embassy in Tel Aviv, sent ahead of the Jewish New Year. There was a bottle of wine… made in a West Bank settlement.

The wine was a kosher Cabernet Sauvignon from the Zion Winery, in the West Bank settlement of Mishor Adumim, east of Jerusalem. The gift was placed in the basket by a third party vendor from whom the embassy purchased the pre-wrapped presents, a US source told the Jerusalem Post.

The baskets were sent to several Israeli organizations ahead of the Rosh Hashanah Jewish New Year, which falls on October 2, but were not checked before distribution.

“We would not have included the wine had we known that it was from the settlements,” US embassy spokeswoman Valerie O’Brien told the newspaper.

“We strongly oppose boycotts targeting the State of Israel, but maintain our long-standing policy that settlements are illegitimate and harmful to the prospects for peace and to Israel’s long-term security,” she added.

The mayor of Ma’aleh Adumim, Benny Kashriel, took a different view though, and wasted no time in talking up the gift.

“Our wine is better and sweeter than what is produced in the Napa Valley,” he said.

“Those who receive the gift basket will be very happy with the wine,” the mayor stressed.

For some reason – perhaps, just for the love of wine – members of Peace Now also showed no sour grapes over the diplomatic gaffe.

"I'm sure it was an honest mistake," a Peace Now member told Reuters, saying this was simply not a case to argue about.