Although water firm cut ties, Dutch PM says he rejects Israel boycott

Mark Rutte tells Netanyahu that Amsterdam is continuing cooperation with Mekorot, despite recent announcement of embargo

A worker at the Eshkol Water Filtration Plant in Northern Israel, operated by Israel's National Water Company Mekorot (photo credit: Moshe Shai/Flash90)
A worker at the Eshkol Water Filtration Plant in Northern Israel, operated by Israel's National Water Company Mekorot (photo credit: Moshe Shai/Flash90)

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte on Wednesday told his Israeli counterpart that he totally rejects any boycott of Israel, and said his country would continue working with Israel’s national water company Mekorot.

The statement came over a week after leading Dutch water company Vitens announced it would discontinue all joint ventures with Mekorot in protest against its operations in the West Bank.

According to an anonymous Israeli government official in Jerusalem, Rutte spoke to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu over the phone and said Amsterdam continues to cooperate with Mekorot on a variety of projects.

Rutte said he stood behind Dutch Foreign Minister Frans Timmermans’ remark that, “The Dutch government emphasizes that it opposes any boycott of Israeli companies or institutions.”

Earlier this year Viten and Mekorot signed a cooperation agreement for the future development of several projects.

According to Israel Radio, a spokesperson for Vitens, a company which provides water to 5.4 million people in the Netherlands, said earlier this month that the firm had come to the decision to sever ties with Mekorot after consulting with Holland’s Foreign Ministry.

“The company concluded that it would be very difficult to develop joint ventures together, considering the fact that they cannot be seen as divorced from their political context,” a company statement said. “We follow international law.”

Mekorot, which oversees some water supply to the Palestinian Authority as well, was unavailable for comment.

EU guidelines published in July and set to take effect in January mandate a denial of European funding to, and cooperation with, Israeli institutions based or operating over the Green Line, and a requirement that all future agreements between Israel and the EU include a clause in which Israel accepts the position that none of the territory over the Green Line belongs to Israel.

Last week, the UK Trade and Investment agency discouraged British firms from entering into business deals with companies located in or associated with West Bank settlements.

The agency warned businesses of the “clear risks related to economic and financial activities in the settlements,” which are “illegal under international law, constitute an obstacle to peace and threaten to make a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict impossible.”

The report urged firms contemplating economic or financial involvement in settlements to seek legal counsel on the matter, and also addressed the “potential reputational implications” that could result from dealing with businesses beyond the Green Line, as well as “possible abuses of the rights of individuals.”

Yifa Yaakov contributed to this report

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