Courting business, Dutch PM promises to visit Israel

Gas exploration a growing field of shared interest.

MARK RUTTE 311 (photo credit: REUTERS)
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte promised to visit Israel this year, the Netherlands’ Ambassador to Israel Caspar Veldkamp said Monday at an Israel-Holland business forum in Tel Aviv’s Azrieli Towers.
“The Dutch private sector wants to connect to Israel,” Veldkamp said before listing off a litany of statistics on the close ties between the two countries. Despite the economic slowdown in Europe, he said, bilateral trade has steadily grown.
Exports from the Netherlands to Israel totaled $2.48 billion, making it the third largest export market in Europe, behind Germany and Italy, while Israel exported $2.3b. back, making it Israel’s second largest import destination in Europe, next to the United Kingdom. The two countries, he said, trade more than Israel and France, and more Israelis reside in the Netherlands than in Italy and Spain combined.
Entering the room on a Dutch-designed wooden bicycle being marketed in Israel, the ambassador proclaimed: “From wooden bicycles to nano-satellites, there’s a lot going on, and an abundance of opportunities for business between Israel and the Netherlands.”
Touting itself as the “gateway to Europe,” the Netherlands boasts its strategic location between the United Kingdom, Germany and France, housing Europe’s largest port (Rotterdam), and being situated within 500 kilometers of 170 million customers. Not only are the two small countries very innovative, Veldkamp said, but they know how to talk to one another.
“We’re a ‘tachles’ people.
That helps! We’re not afraid of each other,” he told The Jerusalem Post, using the Israeli slang for “the bottom line.”
Though the main cooperation between the Netherlands and Israel has been in fields such as agriculture and clean tech (the ambassador says 90 percent of Dutch green houses are fitted with sprinklers from an Israeli company), one of the key areas in which the Netherlands is becoming increasingly useful to Israel is in natural gas.
“We have the highest level of expertise in making a model of a well, and with it predicting what’s in there and what can be taken out,” said Gert-Jan Heerens of Dutch consultancy TNO, which is a third owned by the Dutch government.
“They brought 80 years of experience in the area to the table,” said Shai Spetgang, an executive at IsraNeft, a young Israeli energy company that became TNO’s first client in Israel in September. “Their expertise helps us check where we are, and where we want to move forward.”
With the Bank of Israel estimating that Israel’s newfound natural gas will grow GDP in 2013 by about 1%, the business ties seem set to grow increasingly important.