The mayor of Dutch town Baarle-Nassau said he was “not amused” by reports that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was investigating whether a highly complicated Dutch-Belgian border arrangement offered a precedent for Jewish settlers remaining in a future Palestinian state.
“I am perhaps the only one, but this seems like an April fools’ joke. I think it’s an insult to the victims who have fallen in this conflict,” Mayor Vincent Braam told Dutch-language news outlet Omroep Brabant on Tuesday. “I wonder if this story is true. We are a peaceful, quiet village in the south of the Netherlands. It doesn’t seem to me that our situations are comparable.”
Braam’s counterpart on the Belgian side of the border, Mayor Leo van Tilburg of Baarle-Hertog, shared some of his sentiments but was a little more upbeat.
“We are flattered that they have heard in the distant Middle East about Baarle-Nassau and Baarle-Hertog, but the situation is indeed very different here,” he said. “We don’t walk around here with hand grenades and we do not throw stones, but of course it would be great if our model could even contribute to a solution to the Middle East. Even if it would be a small part.”
Israel’s Channel 2 reported on Sunday that the prime minister had tasked Cabinet Secretary Avichai Mandelblit with researching the arrangements that prevail in the Belgian Baarle-Hertog and Dutch Baarle-Nassau areas — complex solutions that originated in a mixture of medieval treaties, land swaps, land sales and other agreements — to see whether they constituted a viable legal precedent for similar arrangements under which Jewish settlers could stay put within a Palestinian state.
Taking a look at the Belgian-Dutch arrangements, which have been described as the “most complicated” in the world, was one of “many ideas” being contemplated by Netanyahu, the TV report said.
According to Channel 2 correspondent Udi Segal, after Netanyahu raised the idea in meetings, the National Security Council compiled a comprehensive report addressing the practical aspects and legal precedents.
There was no immediate confirmation from the Prime Minister’s Office, but the idea appeared to reflect Netanyahu’s thinking as set out in interviews he gave over the weekend, in which he said there would be “no act of evacuation” — that is, no forced evacuation — of settlers, even under a permanent peace deal with the Palestinians.
Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.