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Dutch MP tells ‘Post’: Boycotting Israel is wrong
By MOSHE ARENSTEIN
01/10/2014
Kees Van Der Staaij says will encourage Holland's Foreign Ministry to issue "a strong statement against the boycott".
 
A member of the Dutch Parliament on Thursday condemned the decision by a large Dutch pension investment company to divest from five Israeli banks.

MP Kees Van Der Staaij – who was in Israel for a four-day visit – said the move was very wrong and that most Dutch did not agree with the idea of a boycott.

He told The Jerusalem Post that he would ask for a debate in the Dutch Parliament on the matter and would do everything in his power to “encourage the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to issue a strong statement against the boycott.”

He also said he would push for his country’s government to intervene in the case.

The PGGM company announced its decision on Wednesday to divest from Bank Hapoalim, Bank Leumi, First International Bank of Israel, Israel Discount Bank and Mizrahi Tefahot Bank.

During his visit to Israel, Van Der Staaij – the leader of the Reformed Political Party in Holland – met with national water corporation Mekorot’s CEO, Shimon Ben-Hamo. He handed Ben-Hamo a shofar, to represent a new beginning and to symbolize the noise he planned to make in Holland to support Israel.

Last month, Dutch water giant Vitens canceled cooperation with Mekorot because of alleged infractions of international law. The Dutch Foreign Ministry subsequently issued a statement saying it “opposes any boycott of Israeli companies or institutions, in line with its standing policy.”

Van Der Staaij’s visit, which ended Thursday, was part of a tour organized by Keshet – The Center for Educational Tourism of Israel.

As part of the trip, the delegation met with the minister in charge of water in the Palestinian Authority, came to see the “Save a Child’s Heart” project at Holon’s Wolfson Medical Center, and talked to inmates at the Ofer Prison.

Van Der Staaij said he opposed any sort of boycotting, stressing that the settlements were a political issue and that Dutch companies needed to work together with Israeli and Palestinian ones, not disengage from them.

“The purpose of this whole visit was to undermine this type of action,” he said.

Meanwhile Thursday, PLO Executive Committee member Dr. Hanan Ashrawi issued a statement welcoming the PGGM decision.

“I commend PGGM for translating its corporate social responsibility policy into practice,” she said. “PGGM’s year-long dialogue with the five banks produced no results.

Considering the high standards set by its Responsible Investment policy, PGGM had no choice but to divest.”

On Wednesday, Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor said the divestment decision was a “sanctimonious move intended to pander to a certain nefarious trend in public opinion.”

Herb Keinon and Reuters contributed to this report.
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