London cable car contract with Emirates Airline calls to exclude Israeli businesses

The body responsible for the transport system in Greater London has been criticized for a sponsorship deal with Emirates Airline for a project which is not allowed to take money or have ties to any Israel businesses.

By JONNY PAUL JERUSALEM POST CORRESPONDENT
July 16, 2013 20:24
2 minute read.
An Emirates airlines aircraft.

emirates plane 370. (photo credit: REUTERS)

LONDON – The body responsible for the transportation system in Greater London has come under criticism for partnering with the Emirates airline on a project that is not allowed to take money from or have ties to any Israeli businesses.

Transport for London (TfL), a local government body under the auspices of the mayor’s office, has a 10-year sponsorship deal worth £36 million with Emirates for a cable car that runs over the Thames River.

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Known as the Emirates Air Line, the cable car runs between Greenwich in southeast London, and the Royal Docks in east London. It opened in June 2012 as a prelude to the London Olympic Games.

The clause came to light following a freedom-of-information request from online watchdog MayorWatch. The Freedom of Information Act 2000 gives anyone “right of access” to information that public authorities hold.

The sponsorship deal requires that TfL abide by the United Arab Emirates’ foreign policy, including a clause that states it should have no ties with Israel or with Israeli businesses.

This also means it cannot sell a majority stake in the project to Israeli-owned companies.

According to the details of the agreement, which Mayor- Watch published on its website, TfL would be in breach of contract if it sold “a material part” of the cable car system or assigned it as security to a “conflicting person.”



A “conflicting person” is defined as any person or competitor who is “a national of, or who is registered, incorporated, established or whose principal place of business is in a country with which the UAE does not at the date of this Contract or at any relevant point during the Term maintain diplomatic relations.”

Since the UAE does not have diplomatic relations with Israel, TfL would not be allowed to finance the project through Israeli-based or - owned banks should the body require the project’s assets be put up as security.

The Board of Deputies of British Jews has questioned the legality of the clause. According to the board’s vice president, Jonathan Arkush, “the clause dealing with ‘conflicting persons’ is effectively aimed solely at Israel, and will cause the Jewish community considerable concern. It may well be unlawful under the Equalities legislation.”

The Zionist Federation of the UK, meanwhile, urged the local government body to reconsider the matter seriously.

“This sets a dangerous precedent, effectively allowing UAE money to dictate government policy through commercial contracts,” said federation chairman Paul Charney. “Bilateral trade has doubled over the past year, making Israel one of Britain’s key trading partners.

This contractual exclusion would not benefit the UK in the long run.”

He called on TfL “to urgently discuss this matter with foreign and trade ministers and reconsider this agreement before any lasting damage is done.”

However, Danny Price, the TfL head of the Emirates Air Line, dismissed the criticism as inaccurate.

“It is factually incorrect to suggest that the contract we have with Emirates constrains TfL from entering any contracts with any other body or organization of our choosing,” he said. “It is to be expected that a sponsorship contract would include a clause to ensure that an organization cannot simply introduce someone else that cuts across the commercial interests of a main sponsor.”


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