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Palestinians Blast Dutch Moves on Aid, Settlement Products
Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely speaks in 2015 during a visit to a plastics factory at an Israeli-owned industrial park in the West Bank. (Menahem Kahana/AFP via Getty Images)

Palestinians Blast Dutch Moves on Aid, Settlement Products

Netherlands parliament votes to cut assistance funds, disregard EU ruling to affix special labels to products produced by settlers

The parliament of the Netherlands has decided to cut over a million euros in monthly financial aid to the Palestinian Authority (PA) and ignore last week’s ruling by the European Court of Justice (ECJ) that EU-member countries avoid labeling Israeli settlement products as being “Made in Israel,” angering Palestinian leaders.

When reached by The Media Line, the spokesperson for the Jerusalem office of the European Union refused to comment on the matter, saying its implications were not yet fully clear. The Netherlands Representative Office in the West Bank city of Ramallah ignored repeated calls.

Some Dutch lawmakers say they object to the PA’s financial assistance to the families of Palestinians in Israeli prisons and those killed by the Israeli military. The Hague’s financial aid to the PA was mostly earmarked for projects and programs at the Ministry of Justice.

Ahmad Majdalani, the PA’s minister of social affairs and a member of the PLO Executive Committee, told The Media Line he met last month with several Dutch lawmakers to discuss a possible aid cut, explaining to them that the assistance given to families was considered a moral obligation.

“We were surprised by the decision and we regret this new position,” he said. “We [now] realize the magnitude of influence and pressure exerted by Israeli-Zionist institutions outside and inside the Netherlands.”

Majdalani added that the Palestinian leadership would resume its diplomatic work with the Dutch government in order to reverse the decision, but at the same time praised the ECJ.

“We highly value the European Court of Justice decision to label Israeli settlement products, which is a step in the right direction,” he said. “It opens the door to criminalize settlements and their products.”

Israel views the decisions coming out of the Netherlands as an important political achievement.

The spokesperson at the Foreign Ministry sent The Media Line a copy of a tweet by Ambassador to the Netherlands Naor Gilon, who thanked a Dutch lawmaker “and all the supporters of the motion” against the ECJ ruling.

“I hope that in case the Dutch government fails to persuade the EU to implement [the ruling] only if applicable to all territories in dispute [around the world], they will adopt their own recommendation and not implement a discriminatory resolution,” Gilon added in his tweet.

Avi Zimmerman, spokesperson for the Judea and Samaria Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the commercial arm of Israel’s settlement movement, told The Media Line that any international decisions focusing on developing the economy of the West Bank to the benefit of Israelis and Palestinians alike would be welcome.

“It’s important to send a clear message that terrorism doesn’t pay, [while] jobs pay,” Zimmerman said.

Nabil Shaath, an adviser on international relations to PA President Mahmoud Abbas, told The Media Line that the decisions by the Netherlands contradicted international law as well as the EU’s historical support for the Palestinian people.

“Clearly, the new position – a significant deterioration from previous ones – was meant to please [US President Donald] Trump amid major opposition from most European countries to his positions and policies,” Shaath said.

He added that the moves threatened opportunities for peace.

“It provokes anger,” he stated, “and I believe the decision will provoke an Arab position against the Netherlands to hold it accountable.”

Ibrahim Melhem, the spokesperson of the PA government, said the Palestinian leadership looked forward to a reversal of the Dutch policies.

The policies, he said, “reflect the extent of American and Israeli political blackmail.”

Melhem added that all countries should “adhere to international agreements and decisions in which Palestinian national rights are recognized.”

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