Gush Shalom blames Israeli leaders for Dutch rejection

To Local Government Association head: "Your association fully earned the public humiliation of the Dutch Government refusing its delegation."

311_settlement (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Israeli left-wing peace advocacy group Gush Shalom on Sunday wrote to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu in response to the Dutch government's cancellation of a planned tour of Israeli council heads in the Netherlands due to the participation of representatives from settlements in the West Bank.
"The Dutch decision is an unmistakable warning sign, written on the wall. It is but a small sample of what we can expect should you give in to the pressure of the settlers and their helpers and decide next week to resume settlement construction in the occupied territories," Gush Shalom told the prime minister.
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"The Netherlands is known for a deep friendship toward Israel over the years, but neither the Netherlands nor any of Israel's other friends would ever agree to the existence of settlements in Occupied Territory."
Gush Shalom also wrote a barbed letter to the head of the Local Government Association Shlomo Buhbut on Sunday, blaming him for the Dutch government's cancellation of the the visit.
"Your association has fully earned the public humiliation of having the Dutch Government refuse to receive its delegation, which included the municipal heads of such West Bank settlements as Kiryat Arba, Efrat and Oranit," read the letter.
"You have submitted to the Dutch what purported to be a list of heads of municipalities in Israel, wishing to hold an official visit there. It was no great feat to ascertain that some of them were not at all from Israel, but from the settlements in Occupied Territory which are outside the borders of Israel."
Earlier in the day, Army Radio reported that the tour of Israeli council leaders in the Netherlands was canceled by Dutch authorities due to the participation of representatives from the West Bank settlements of Oranit, Beit Ariyeh, Har Adar, and Efrat. A government source responded that the Dutch embassy in Israel had already vetted the list of invitees.
The tour was slated to take place next month,and was already finalized by local authorities in the Netherlands. However, it was reported that after the identity of the participants reached the Dutch foreign ministry, the tour was canceled. The forum, organized in coordination with the Joint Distribution Committee, was intended to be a professional tour of Holland in order to learn about public policy and working with different types of governments and local authorities.
Reports said that the problems began when leading up to the meeting, embassy personnel requested a list of those traveling to Holland. They began a check into the heads of local councils from Judea and Samaria and later stated that the trip would be delayed.
The Dutch embassy contacted the local authorities in the Netherlands and explained that a tour like this was not possible because the delegation included the council heads of Har Adar, Beit Ariyeh, Oranit, Efrat, and representatives from Kiryat Arba, it was reported.
Army Radio reported that a letter circulated among the local authorities in Holland said, "Following the exchange of ideas about visiting the Netherlands and after internal consultations, we are backing out of the tour based on the latest information, particularly out of fears over the composition of the delegation. You all know that there is no doubt the composition of the delegation is controversial."
The European Union has in the past taken similar measures against manufacturers in the settlements, academic institutions, and construction companies, but this was reported by Army Radio to be the first time that the EU took a hard line with representatives of Israeli local councils. The Foreign Ministry said that the decision was "without doubt political, superfluous, damaging, and we hope that the last word on the subject has not yet been said." 
However, it was reported that Israeli diplomats were unable to repair the situation. A meeting between the Israeli ambassador in Holland with the deputy director-general of the Dutch Foreign Ministry did not prevent the cancellation, and Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon's intervention was unable reinstate the planned visit.