Dutch encourage business with firm stealing Palestinian water

The Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte will visit Israel next week to boost economic cooperation between it and the Netherlands.

Rutte and his Israeli counterpart Benjamin Netanyahu will use the opportunity to officially launch the Netherlands-Israel Cooperation Forum (NICF).

The Dutch government officially discourages Dutch businesses from investing in or providing services to Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank. It has made a commitment not to provide assistance to Dutch companies that want to engage in settlement activities.

However, the NICF website states that the forum aims to facilitate contacts between Dutch firms and the Israeli water company Mekorot.  That company provides services to Israeli settlements.


“This is incomprehensible and unacceptable,” said Hanan Ashrawi, an executive committee member of the Palestine Liberation Organization. In a 3 December press release, Ashrawi urged the Dutch government to exclude companies active in the settlements from the NICF.

In December 2012, the European Union expressed its commitment to ensure that all agreements with the State of Israel do not apply to the occupied West Bank (including East Jerusalem), Gaza or the Golan Heights. 

Ashrawi has complained that Mekorot “expropriates Palestinian water resources, discriminates in supplying water to Palestinians as opposed to settlers, and charges us for our own water.”

In a March 2013 report, the Netherlands Advisory Council on International Affairs (AIV), a well-respected independent advisory body to the government and parliament, urged the authorities to “actively discourage Dutch and European companies from doing business with Israeli companies in the settlements.”

Risk of criminal probes

The government wrote in an official response that it “discourages economic relations between Dutch companies and companies operating in settlements in the occupied territories. Dutch government institutions perform no services for companies operating in Israeli settlements. The embassy in Tel Aviv provides Dutch companies with information about issues of international law, with respect to doing business in the occupied territories. Where necessary Dutch companies are held to account for their actions.”

Meanwhile, 13 professors of international law from or based in the Netherlands have signed a letter, calling on the government to ensure the NICF will not support activities in Israeli settlements.

Palestinian human rights activists have previously taken action against a Dutch firm Riwal over its role in the construction of Israel’s wall in the West Bank. If the Dutch government does not live up to its legal obligations by preventing business with Israeli companies operating in the West Bank, it may face other criminal investigations. 


Adri Nieuwhof

Adri Nieuwhof's picture

Adri Nieuwhof is a human rights advocate based in the Netherlands and former anti-apartheid activist at the Holland Committee on Southern Africa. Twitter: @steketeh