Israel regrets German pullout from TA-J’lem rail project

German ministry says project of laying down tracks traversing West Bank may be "politically sensitive."

Deutsche Bahn 311 (photo credit: Courtesy)
Deutsche Bahn 311
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Israel on Wednesday said it regretted the decision by German National Railways (Deutsche Bahn) to halt its work on the high-speed train line from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem because a small section of the route crosses over into the West Bank.
A spokeswoman for Israel Railways said Deutsche Bahn informed them recently of their decision, saying they withdrew because a portion of the project is located over the pre-1967 border. She added that Israel Railways was looking at options to replace the company.
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“We regret this decision,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor told The Jerusalem Post.
Already in February, German Transportation Minister Peter Ramsauer, answered a query on the matter by Rudiger Grube, the CEO of Deutsche Bahn.
“In recent weeks Palestinian Foreign Affairs Minister [Riyad Al-] Malki, members of the German Parliament and media have criticized a project in which DB International is acting as adviser to Israel’s state-run Israel Railway,” Ramsauer wrote.
“I want to advise you...that this Israeli railway project which runs through occupied territory is problematic from a foreign policy standpoint and is potentially against international law,” he wrote.
In an e-mail response to the Post on Tuesday, Vera Moosmayer, a spokeswoman for Germany’s Federal Ministry of Transport, Building and Urban Affairs said her office would continue to support the railway project, but not this particular line.
The ministry “explicitly welcomes the engagement of DB-subsidiary ‘DB International’ to contribute to the international development of railway traffic through passing on its experience and know-how.
“It goes without saying that this is also the case with regard to Israel,” she wrote.
“However, the federal government out of principle sees to it that this activity does not include projects that might be potentially sensitive politically or with regard to international law – as the Deutsche Bahn is a company that is 100% state-owned. That as a matter of principle and applied in all countries,” she wrote.
According to Moosmayer, Deutsche Bahn has been active in Israel since 1990.
Moosmayer noted that Ramsauer visited Israel last year to discuss ways that the two countries could cooperate on infrastructure matters. During the March 2010 visit, both governments signed a memorandum of understanding to increase their cooperation in the railway sectors.
The German National Railways’ decision to drop out of the Tel-Aviv to Jerusalem line, came after a campaign against the rail line was launched last fall by the Women’s Coalition for Peace, an Israel-based NGO.
In a report titled “Crossing the Line,” compiled by a section of the NGO called, “Who Profits,” the report explained that six kilometers of the 60-km track crossed into the West Bank.
One section of the rail line goes into the West Bank by the settlement of Mevo Horon and the second crosses over by the Palestinian village of Beit Iksa and Beit Surik.
“Who Profits” coordinator Merav Amir congratulated the German government on its decision to pull out of the project.
“It’s encouraging to see a government abide by their own treaties and adhere to international law, and we call on other European governments to follow suit in making sure that companies in their countries abide by international law,” Amir said.
The rail line is one of many projects in which international companies are involved in “illegal Israeli construction projects in the occupied Palestinian territories,” she said.
“There is a discrepancy between what EU governments say and what actually happens,” Amir said. “Governments issue statements about the illegality of Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories, but when you see what the EU commercial sector actually does, many times it violates those very declarations, encouraging and profiting from Israeli control over occupied territory.”