Dutch Firm Divests from Israel Over 'Settlements'
Dutch pension asset manager PGGM, one of the largest in the country, said on Wednesday it was divesting from five Israeli banks because they finance "Jewish settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories," according to AFP.
"PGGM recently decided to no longer invest in five Israeli banks," said the company, which manages about 153 billion euros ($208 billion dollars) in funds. "The reason for this was their involvement in financing Israeli settlements in occupied Palestinian territories [sic]," PGGM said in a statement.
PGGM said there was "a concern, as the settlements in the Palestinian territories are considered illegal under humanitarian law,"and regarded by international observers as an "important obstacle to a peaceful (two-state) solution of the Israel-Palestinian conflict."
The oft-cited claim that Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria run contrary to international law has been disputed by numerous legal experts. Late last year, Israel's former ambassador to Canada sent a strong-worded letter to US Secretary of State John Kerry, in which detailing the lack of legal justifications for such a claim. The letter was penned in response to Kerry's claim that Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria are "illegitimate".
The latest European boycott comes amid revelations that Kerry himself has been orchestrating the recent campaign of boycott threats against the Jewish state, as a coercive tool to push Israel into agreeing to a final status agreement.
PGGM said it would no longer do business with five different Israeli banks: Hapoalim, Leumi, the First National Bank of Israel, the Israel Discount Bank and the Mizrahi-Tefahot Bank.
PGGM added that it based its decision on a 2004 UN International Court of Justice ruling that the Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria were in breach of the Geneva Convention relating to occupying powers transferring their own citizens into occupied territories.
The group said it had been discussing the issue with the Israeli banks "for several years", but that the banks "have limited to no possibilities to end their involvement in the financing of settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories [sic]."
"Therefore, it was concluded that engagement as a tool to bring about change will not be effective in this case," PGGM said.
All investment in the banks ended on January 1 "as concerns remain and changes are not expected in the foreseeable future," it added.
PGGM's investments in Israeli banks amount to a few tens of millions of euros, Haaretz reported.
Last month Dutch water supplier Vitens ended a partnership with Israeli water company Mekorot due to the "political context." The decision came days after a visit to the Mekorot offices in Israel by Dutch trade minister Lilianne Ploumen was abruptly cancelled.
The visit was part of a larger tour of Israel by Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte that was marred by a dispute over a Dutch-made security scanner intended to check goods leaving Gaza for Judea and Samaria.
Rutte was to have inaugurated the scanner on the Islamist-controlled territory's border with Israel, but the ceremony was broken off after Israel said it did not want Gazan goods going to Judea and Samaria.
Deputy Foreign minister Zeev Elkin last month said he was "blindsided" by Vitens' pullout "and a few more European companies have made similar decisions in the past months, which have blindsided us exactly in parallel with the peace process."
Zeev, speaking to IDF Radio, said that peace initiatives should mean "that people don't breathe down our neck", but "unfortunately this doesn't work."
Holland in particularly has contributed to that trend, after numerous economic boycotts and a report by a Dutch MP blaming Israel for the failure in talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority (PA).
The latest European boycott comes amid revelations that US Secretary of State John Kerry