The government of the Netherlands rejected calls to impose sanctions on Israel in the wake of the Jewish State's campaign against the Hamas regime in Gaza. Even as the Dutch Prime Minister expressed understanding for Israel, his government and that of Denmark are putting forth a new ceasefire initiative.
In a written response to parliamentary inquiries this week, Dutch Foreign Minister Maxime Verhagen and Development Co-operation Minister Bert Koenders stated their government's position on anti-Israel sanctions. The Dutch government dismissed the idea, which was raised by a number of members of parliament who feel that Israel is using "disproportionate force" in its war with Islamic fundamentalist terrorists in Gaza.
Ceasefire Only Possible If Hamas Won't Rearm
In a separate statement on Wednesday, describing his government's joint initiative with Denmark towards a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas, Verhagen said, "A cease-fire as speedily as possible - and permanent - is only possible if Israel can assume that Hamas will not arm itself afresh with rockets. Then the Gaza borders can be opened again for the so urgently-needed humanitarian and economic aid. This means that control of the border must be watertight."
To that end, the Netherlands and Denmark informed the president of the European Union of their proposal to deploy European monitors along the Egypt-Gaza border. The Dutch Foreign Minister also discussed the idea with Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas, as well as with US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. Verhagen "also urged the Iranian Foreign Minister Mottaki to use his influence on Hamas to stop further bloodshed," a Foreign Ministry press release said.
Verhagen was "shocked by the reports of a large number of victims as a result of a military action in Gaza in which a school was hit, and expresses his condolences to the relatives," according to the Dutch government. Deploring the loss of life and limb in both Israel and the Palestinian Authority, Foreign Minister Verhagen said, "The Netherlands is counting on Israel, as it has also said, doing everything to avoid more civilians becoming victims of the military action."
A majority of Dutch MPs support the proposal floated by the Netherlands and Denmark.
Dutch PM 'Understands' Israel
Although his government proposed a brokered ceasefire between Hamas and Israel, Dutch Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende had already expressed an understanding for Israel's military actions in Gaza. Israel's campaign, he explained, could not be condemned as it constituted a reaction to the scores of rockets the Gaza regime has fired at Jewish towns in southern Israel.
In a televised interview, Balkenende would not lay the blame for the conflict on Israel; however, he did call for international pressure on both Israel and the Gaza half of the Palestinian Authority. "Both parties should acknowledge that it is in the interest of their people if they renounce violence," he said.
Balkende belongs to the Christian Democrats party, which has been tagged in European circles as pro-Israel in orientation.