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Dutch ambassador summoned over pro-boycott atmosphere of Israel in Holland

By Missing Peace
Dutch FM Timmermans during a speech in Israel earlier this weekDutch FM Timmermans during a speech in Israel earlier this week

The Israeli Foreign Ministry summoned Dutch Ambassador Casper Veldkamp to protest what it said were “ambiguous” statements by the Dutch Foreign Ministry creating a pro-boycott atmosphere of Israel in the Netherlands, on Wednesday.

Israel protested that unclear language by the Dutch Foreign Ministry about doing business with Israeli firms was feeding a pro-boycott environment in the country.

The Netherlands has long been Israel’s best friend in Europe, but since current FM Timmermans (Labor) took over the Dutch Foreign Ministry from Uri Rosenthal things changed quickly.

Timmermans earlier this week even defended the double standard that the EU uses in its treatment of Israel.

Vitens boycott

Yesterday Israeli media reported that Dutch water-giant Vitens canceled a recently signed cooperation agreement with Israel’s water corporation Mekorot because it’s activities in the West-Bank.  

A spokesman for the Dutch Foreign Ministry denied that the ministry did not insist on the termination of the Vitens-Mekorot cooperation and that the decision was taken by Vitens itself.

However, Vitens earlier issued a statement in which it acknowledged that the decision was taken after consultations with the Dutch ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Israel’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor said it was “very strange” that Vitens was boycotting an Israeli counterpart chosen by the World Bank for a regional cooperation project. Palmor was referring to the Dead Sea water-sharing project involving Jordan, Israel and the Palestinian Authority.

Palmor said Vitens had adopted “an absurd position, putting to shame the boycott and its supporters.” Still, the Foreign Ministry is wary of the mood in the Netherlands concerning Israel. Officials in Jerusalem say boycotts and anti-Israeli steps stem in part from the Dutch government’s caving to pressure from anti-Israel groups.

According to the Dutch daily NRC, Dutch minister for foreign trade and development cooperation, Lilianne Ploumen, also canceled a visit this week to Mekorot.

In Dutch media and in a recent parliamentary debate, Mekorot was mentioned as a company that drills for water in the West Bank. It was also accused of discriminating against Palestinians in supplying water.

False information

This accusation was apparently based on false information provided by pro-Palestinian NGO’s and the Palestinian Authority.

In fact Mekorot’s activities in the West-Bank are entirely legal and based on the water agreement that was signed as part of the Oslo accords. Mekorot also supplies the Palestinians with more water than was agreed upon under the Oslo accords.

A recent scientific study by  Swiss graduate Lauro Burkart has provided evidence of this. Burkart wrote in his thesis that ‘the goals of the Oslo II water agreement have been reached regarding the quantities of water provided to the Palestinian population (178 mcm/year in 2006)’.

He also discovered that the facts disseminated by the Palestinians, international organizations and donors about the root causes of the water scarcity in the West Bank are incorrect.

Burkart wrote: “It is not the Israeli occupation policy but the Palestinian political resistance against joint management and cooperation that is responsible for the relatively slow development of the Palestinian water sector and the deteriorating human rights situation in the Palestinian Territories” and “There is convincing evidence of mismanagement within the Palestinian Water Authority (PWA).”

The summoning of the Dutch ambassador followed two incidents involving Dutch ministers earlier this week. Those incidents took place during the visit of a Dutch parliamentary delegation to Israel.

First Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte canceled a gala ceremony planned for Sunday to inaugurate a new container scanner donated by the Netherlands to Israel’s border crossing with the Gaza Strip. This cancelation came after Israel’s refusal to view the high-tech machine as grounds for allowing exports from Gaza to the West Bank to resume.

The Israeli refusal was a result of a long standing policy that aims to weaken the Hamas regime in Gaza. According to Israeli PM Netanyahu this policy is supported by the Palestinian Authority.

Then there was an incident in which Dutch FM Timmermans refused to accept an IDF escort during his visit to Hebron.

Timmermans was scheduled to pay a visit to the former Arab market in the Israeli sector (H2) in Hebron where the IDF is responsible for security  since the signing of the Wye accord between Israel and the PA. When Timmermans was told that the IDF would accompany him he canceled the visit.