Jonathan Lis, 19 September 2010
The professional delegation, funded by the Joint Distribution Committee, a Jewish-American charity, was supposed to fly to the Netherlands next month to study public policy and local governance.
But when the Dutch Foreign Ministry found out that regional council heads from the Judea and Samaria regions – including from the West bank settlements Efrat and Kiryat Arba – were due to participate, they decided to cancel the tour.
The Israeli Foreign Ministry responded in a statement: “This is undoubtedly useless and harmless politics, and we hope that this is not the final word on the topic.”
Aryeh Eldad, a Knesset member from the hard-right National Union party, condemned the decision, saying:
“The Dutch surrender to the Arabs reflects their surrender to the Muslim minority that is growing steadily in Holland, which in itself is an echo to Netanyahu’s surrender to Obama regarding the building freeze.”
Eldad added: “If Netanyahu has in effect defined the borders of the state and placed a extended chokehold on hundreds of thousands of Jews – no one can come to the Netherlands with complaints over its surrender to its large minority – as long as Israel continues to surrender and act as if it is still in the Diaspora.”
Local Council Chairman Shlomo Buchbut spoke with the Dutch ambassador and wrote to the Dutch foreign minister, saying that he regarded the decision “with great severity”.
“The Local Councils are led by mayors from all over the political spectrum for Israel’s citizens. These kinds of actions only hurt the cause of advancing peace. We need to support Israel’s citizens just as they are, and not to ignite political debates,” Buchbut said.
“In the past, we have conducted similar trips to Denmark, France and China. We cooperate with the European Union, Arabs, Jews and Europeans to talk about common professional interests and we advance local councils in general,” Buchbut added.
He concluded: “The decision by the Netherlands puts the [Israeli-Arab] conflict before anything else. I hope that the Dutch will change their minds.”
Gush Shalom: Dutch ban on settlement mayors is a warning sign on the wall
Even Israel’s best friends will never accept settlements in Occupied Territory
“Your association has fully earned the public humiliation of having the Dutch Government refuse to receive its delegation, which included the municipal heads of such West Bank settlements as Kiryat Arba, Efrat and Oranit” Gush Shalom said in a letter to Shlomo Buhbut, head of the Local Government Association. “You have submitted to the Dutch what purported to be a list of heads of municipalities in Israel, wishing to hold an official visit there. It was no great feat to ascertain that some of them were not at all from Israel, but from the settlements in Occupied Territory which are outside the borders of Israel.”
To PM Netanyahu, Gush Shalom wrote: “The Dutch decision is an unmistakable warning sign, written on the wall. It is but a small sample of what we can expect should you give in to the pressure of the settlers and their helpers and decide next week to resume settlement construction in the occupied territories. The Netherlands are known over many years for a deep friendship toward Israel, but neither the Netherlands nor any of Israel’s other friends would ever agree to the existence of settlements in Occupied Territory. Not only is this a serious violation of International Law, but is also blocks any chance for peace in our region, thus increasing instability in the entire world. The choice you and the whole country face is sharp and clear: either peace or settlements, either Israel’s acceptance as a legitimate part of the region or international isolation and the loss of even our staunchest friends.”