Norway’s huge sovereign wealth fund said weighing divesting from Israel

Reports say the major global investor is reviewing its activity in the country due to Israeli banks’ involvement in West Bank settlements

The Tel Aviv Stock Exchange, in the center of Tel Aviv, December 25, 2018. (Adam Shuldman/Flash90)
The Tel Aviv Stock Exchange, in the center of Tel Aviv, December 25, 2018. (Adam Shuldman/Flash90)

Norway’s sovereign wealth fund, a major global investor, is reviewing its investments in Israel and may halt them entirely due to Israeli banks’ involvement in West Bank settlements, according to multiple reports in Hebrew media outlets Thursday night.

The fund, which manages and invests revenue from the country’s natural resources for the benefit of the government’s developmental budget, is worth some $1.3 trillion and is the largest of its kind in the world, owning some 1.3 percent of the world’s publicly traded companies.

It is currently invested in some 80 Israeli stocks, including banks, industry and technology companies.

The fund has in the past divested from numerous companies around the world for activities it deemed unethical, including a number of Israeli companies involved in settlements.

According to Haaretz, Jerusalem officials believe the latest move was influenced by the UN’s 2020 decision to issue a blacklist of more than 100 global companies that conduct business tied to Israeli settlements.

Channel 12 reported that the fund has been considering halting investments in Israel for many months, but the issue has recently gained speed.

The network, citing an unidentified Israeli official with knowledge of the matter, reported that the hard-right character of the incoming government has played a part.

“Our efforts to dissuade the fund from this action will be difficult to bring to fruition in the face of the stated policies of the [new] government regarding the territories,” the official said.

Construction work for new housing in the settlement of Modi’in Illit. January 11, 2021. (Flash90)

On Thursday Channel 12 reported that Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud and far-right Religious Zionism have agreed to move toward annexing West Bank land under the new coalition.

Though the commitment is vaguely worded, it openly states that the Jewish people “have a natural right over the Land of Israel” and therefore “the prime minister will lead the formulation and advancement of policies within the framework of applying sovereignty in [the West Bank].”

The Foreign Ministry said in a terse statement on the fund’s potential divestment that “we are aware of this serious issue and handling it.”

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