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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
This contractual exclusion would not benefit the UK in the long
He called on TfL “to urgently discuss this matter with foreign and
trade ministers and reconsider this agreement before any lasting damage is
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.”