Middle East

Israel summons Dutch envoy over bank boycott

OCCUPIED JERUSALEM: Israel summoned the Netherlands' ambassador on Friday, expressing anger at a decision by Dutch pension asset manager PGGM to divest from Israeli banks over settlement building in the West Bank.

Ambassador Caspar Veldkamp was summoned "for clarification" over the decision, the foreign ministry said.

The ministry "told the Dutch ambassador that the decision of the PGGM pension fund to divest from Israel is unacceptable and relies on false pretence," it said.

"We expect the government of the Netherlands... to take an unequivocal stance against such steps, which only wreak damage to the relations between Israel and the Netherlands."

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said that PGGM's decision "was their own and has nothing to do with the Dutch government."

"We are against a boycott and against sanctions (against Israel)," he told journalists at his weekly news conference in The Hague. "But we are against the settlements."

Dutch "companies are free to do business within the settlements, but we would not support that," Rutte added.

PGGM, one of the largest pension asset managers in the Netherlands, said on Wednesday it was divesting from five Israeli banks because they finance Jewish settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories.

The announcement came a month after a major Dutch water supplier ended a partnership with an Israeli water company which supplies Israeli towns and Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank.

"PGGM recently decided to no longer invest in five Israeli banks," said the company, which manages about 153 billion euros ($208 billion) in funds.

"The reason for this was their involvement in financing Israeli settlements in occupied Palestinian territories.

PGGM said there was "a concern, as the settlements in the Palestinian territories are considered illegal under humanitarian law," and regarded by international observers as an "important obstacle to a peaceful (two-state) solution of the Israel-Palestinian conflict."

Senior Palestinian official Hanan Ashrawi commended PGGM for "translating its corporate social responsibility policy into practise."

"Steps by corporations such as PGGM, as well as practical measures that European governments have been taking, finally make Israel realise that it is not above the law," she said in a statement.

The foreign ministry statement came as Israel unveiled more than 1,800 new settler homes in the West Bank and east Jerusalem, in a move Palestinians said would scupper US efforts towards reaching a Middle East peace deal.





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