The Norwegian government has decided to divest from the Israeli security company Elbit over the construction of a barrier in Judea and Samaria. Norway's finance minister, Kristin Halvorsen, announced the decision at a news conference on Thursday.
Norway's state pension plan had held roughly $5.4 million in Elbit shares. The pension fund will maintain its investments in dozens of other Israeli firms.
Halvorsen was blunt in her criticism of the barrier, terming it a violation of international law. A council on ethics determined that investing in Elbit was “an unacceptable risk of complicity in serious violations of fundamental ethical norms,” she said.
Norway views the barrier as illegal because many sections are built to the east of the 1949 armistice line, in areas that European Union judges consider to be occupied Arab territory.
Elbit supplies surveillance equipment which is used along the Judea and Samaria barrier.
Norway's pension fund seeks foreign investments for surplus state revenue from the sale of oil and natural gas. The fund is currently worth roughly $395 billion.
In 2004, an ethical committee was established to oversee the fund's investments. The committee has boycotted several United States companies, primarily weapons suppliers, as well as a number of other firms throughout Europe and Asia.
Israel Summons Norwegian Ambassador
Israel responded Thursday afternoon by summoning Norway's ambassador to Israel for a reprimand. Foreign Ministry officials said Israel would consider “steps of protest” over the divestment.
Elbit Closes Major Deal
The announcement came just one day after Elbit won a major contract with the Defense Ministry. Elbit and the Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) will work together to create an unmanned ground vehicle for IDF use.
Elbit's senior management declined to disclose the project's price tag.
Security Barrier Barely Grows
In 2002, as suicide bombings rocked cities throughout Israel, Israel began construction of a barrier that would separate primarily Arab areas in Judea and Samaria from the majority of Israeli towns. The barrier was planned to be hundreds of kilometers long, and was to include electronic sensors and other advanced surveillance equipment.
The barrier was meant to stop the situation in which suicide bombers could simply walk from Palestinian Authority-controlled Arab towns to major Israeli cities. Instead, PA Arabs must now enter pre-1967 Israel through a series of checkpoints.
The barrier – in some places a fence, in others a concrete wall – has been built largely along the 1949 armistice line. In some places, it swerves to the east to encompass major Israeli towns in Judea and Samaria, such as Ariel and Maaleh Adumim.
The structure has been criticized by PA Arabs, who have accused Israel of attempting to steal land, and by Judea and Samaria Jews, who fear that the barrier signals an intent to withdraw from the majority of Jewish towns located east of the armistice lines. It has been praised by those who credit it with dramatically slowing the pace of terrorist attacks in pre-1967 Israel.
Construction of the barrier has slowed in recent years. In 2006 the barrier was over 50 percent complete; however, since then, much of the new funding for the barrier has been invested in moving select sections to the west by order of the Supreme Court. The project is several years behind schedule, and with the current allocated funding,