Al Rawabi 311.
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
Right-wing politicians and attorneys attempted on Tuesday to stop Israeli companies that boycott settlement products – such as those helping to build the new Palestinian city of Rawabi – from working on government-funded projects.
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The Legal Forum for the Land of Israel asked the attorney- general and the Finance Ministry to amend the law regulating governmental tenders, so that companies boycotting settlement products would be banned from bidding for government projects.
MK Arye Eldad (National Union), with the support of the Knesset Land of Israel lobby group, penned a bill to the same effect, which he hopes to file in the Knesset this week.
The attorneys and politicians stepped up their battle against settlement boycotts after Army Radio ran a story that Israeli companies working at Rawabi, which lies north of Ramallah, had agreed not to use settlement products there.
A clause to this effect was included in the contract Israeli companies signed with the Bayti Real Estate Investment Company, which is developing Rawabi.
The clause reads, “the Seller is prohibited from using and/or employing goods and/or services and/or resources manufactured and/or originating from Israeli settlements towards achieving any of the objectives of this Agreement, or in relation thereto.”
It includes east Jerusalem and the Golan Heights in its definition of settlements.
Companies that violate this clause risk the annulment of the contract, loss of pay and financial penalties.
Bashar Masri, chairman of Massar International, which co-owns Bayti, told The Jerusalem Post
that settlement products had been banned in the construction of Rawabi since work on the city began in 2009.
“We have a clause in all of our contracts that prohibits the use of Israeli settlement products or services, whether it is in the West Bank and east Jerusalem or the Golan Heights,” said Masri.
He explained that the 60-plus companies working on Rawabi, whether Palestinian, international or Israeli, had all agreed to the clause.
“Israeli companies are quite competitive, and we use them,” said Masri, while adding that the preference was obviously to employ Palestinian companies.
The number of Israeli companies that work on the projects is growing, Masri said. He estimated that 10 or 12 Israeli companies were working on the project so far, but there would soon be more than 20.
Most of the Israeli companies working on Rawabi provide building materials such as sand, but are not actually construction companies.
Israelis also provide landscape services, he said.
“We have a right not to buy products and services from those who make our lives miserable, and who confiscate our land and take it illegally and build on it illegally,” he argued.
“Settlements are not something the Palestinian people take lightly,” Masri added.
The Palestinian businessman said he did not want to disclose the identity of the Israeli companies, but said he had heard from them after the story broke about the settlement ban.
“The companies assured us that they stand behind the contracts. We are glad that they do,” Masri said.
Eldad said that the contract was “shameful” and that Israeli companies that signed should be forced to give up their work with the government.
Dani Dayan, who heads the Council of Jewish Communities of Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip, asked the attorney-general to investigate the legality of such a clause.
It’s a serious matter when Israelis are willing to give up on part of their country, particularly for financial gain, declared Dayan.
But attorney Michael Sfard, who often represents Peace Now, said that it was legal for Israeli companies to sign a contract with such a clause.
Earlier this year, however, the Land of Israel lobby filed a bill in the Knesset that passed its preliminary reading, to criminalize boycotts of Israel and the settlements, said Eldad.