A British government-funded watchdog will investigate a top UK-based multinational corporation which has been accused of profiting from Israel's administration of the disputed territories in Judea and Samaria, the Financial Times reported on Monday.
G4S, which is regarded as one of the world's leading security contractors, is believed to have provided services to the Israeli military and defense apparatus which controls large swaths of the West Bank.
According to Financial Times, G4S supplies Israel with screening and security equipment that it uses at West Bank checkpoints and prisons. This has elicited protests from pro-Palestinian supporters who have urged a boycott of Israel as a means of persuading the government to withdraw from the territories.
The Financial Times reported on Monday that the National Contact Point, which is subsidized by the British government and which is responsible for ensuring that multinational companies comply with OECD standards of behavior, agreed to "further examination" of G4S following repeated protests and inquiries by human rights organizations.
G4S officials have said that while they do provide services to the Israeli defense establishment, it is limited to security cameras and closed-circuit television equipment.
Last week, pro-Palestinian supporters and proponents of divestiture from Israel over its policies in the West Bank claimed victory after it was reported in numerous media outlets that Bill Gates, the founder of Microsoft and the world’s wealthiest man, was selling shares of G4S.
According to the British newspaper Telegraph, Gates reduced his stake in the company, which was once thought to be just over 3 percent. Gates’ holdings in G4S were estimated to value $167 million.
Gates had bought shares of the firm through Cascade Investment, his privately-owned investment company, and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, according to the Telegraph. But a recent filing with the stock exchange revealed that Gates had divested from some of his shares to the point where his stake is now at below 3 percent.
Commercial ties with Israel that are seen as strengthening its hold on the disputed territories has become a contentious issue in Europe over the course of recent months.
Last year, the European Union published guidelines limiting interaction with Israeli entities beyond the pre-1967 lines. The guidelines "reiterate the long-held position that bilateral agreements with Israel do not cover the territory that came under Israel's administration in June 1967.
Last year, the company announced it is planning to quit key contracts in Israel amid protests against its involvement in West Bank settlements.
"The company employs 6,000 people in Israel, where it provides and maintains screening equipment for several West Bank military checkpoints. It also manages security systems at the controversial Ofer Prison in the Occupied West Bank. But with sporadic international protests continuing both outside the FTSE 100’s headquarters in London and internationally, the company said it would exit the contracts covering Ofer, the checkpoints and the West Bank police headquarters when they terminate in 2015," the Financial Times reported.