The Netherlands opposes a boycott of Israel, foreign minister says

The Netherlands opposes a boycott of Israel and does not support sanctions against the country either, foreign minister Frans Timmermans told Nos television.

Timmermans made the comments in response to Kees van der Staaij, leader of the fundamentalist Christian party SGP, who said earlier this week there is a ‘feeling of a boycott’ among Dutch firms.

That statement followed the decision by pension fund manager PGGM to pull out its investments in five Israeli banks because they are involved in funding settlements in the Occupied Territories.

Consistency

Timmermans told Nos television the Netherlands is consistent in its opposition to the settlements and that the cabinet discourages companies from doing business which facilitates this. ‘That has been the policy for years,’ he said.

The government has denied playing any part in PGGM’s decision. The pension group still has over €100m invested in Israel.

PGGM’s move is the third high-profile divestment in recent months. In December, state-owned water company Vitens broke off its alliance with Israeli water group Mekorot.

In September Dutch civil engineering group HaskoningDHV pulled out of a project to develop a waste water treatment plant in Jerusalem after the foreign ministry said it could conflict with international law.

Supporter

The Netherlands has traditionally been one of Israel’s strongest supporters in Europe but the current government has adopted a slightly harder line.

Soon after taking office in 2012, Timmermans criticised Israel’s plans to build new houses in East Jerusalem and the West Bank, saying this would ‘undermine the two-state solution in which Israel and a future Palestinian state would exist side-by-side in peace and security’.

Timmermans and prime minister Mark Rutte headed a 70-company strong trade mission to Israel in early December. The visit became mired in controversy over a security scanner at the border with Gaza, paid for by the Netherlands.