Dutch firm’s role in Jerusalem sewage plant would help settlements, Palestinians say

Dutch right-wing lawmakers have criticized the government for discouraging Royal HaskoningDHV from aiding Israeli settlements.

The lawmakers claim that the Palestinians and the peace process will be harmed if the Netherlands-based engineering company withdraws from a planned sewage treatment plant in East Jerusalem.

However, Palestinian organizations refute this and have welcomed the Dutch government’s intervention.

Palestinian Liberation Organization executive committee member Hanan Ashrawi stated that the Palestinian Authority has repeatedly expressed its “strong objection” to the project to Royal HaskoningDHV and the Dutch government.

The Palestinian Authority are not partners in the project. Ashrawi describes the Dutch lawmakers’ claim that the project serves Palestinian interests as “erroneous and highly misleading.”

Palestinian human rights organization Al-Haq also expressed its grave concern about Israel’s plans for a wastewater treatment plant in eastern Jerusalem in a statement I received by email yesterday.

The plant will “contribute to maintaining and supporting illegal settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territory” and help to make “Israel’s annexation of East Jerusalem irreversible,” writes Al-Haq director Shawan Jabarin.

The Palestinian rights organization reminds Royal HaskoningDHV of the Dutch prosecutor’s warning in another recent case that Dutch nationals and corporations “can be held criminally responsible for violations of international humanitarian law under Dutch criminal law.” Al-Haq strongly urges all participants to terminate any involvement in the wastewater treatment plant.

No permission for Palestinian sewage treatment plant

The Joint Water Committee (JWC) — consisting of Israelis and Palestinians — oversees and authorizes water projects in the occupied West Bank, excluding the Israeli settlements. Israel, as the occupier, has a right to veto decisions concerning Palestinian water projects in the JWC.

In 2010, the Palestinian Water Authority asked the JWC for permission to build a sewage plant in Ubeidiyeh to treat all wastewater flowing from East Jerusalem and Bethlehem into Wadi al-Nar (Kidron Valley), excluding the settlements. The treated water would be used for the development of Palestinian agriculture.

However, Israel denied JWC approval for this vital Palestinian project. Instead, it plans to upgrade its own sewage plant in the same area, which is located near Nabi Musa (between Jerusalem and Jericho).

Boost for settlements in Jordan Valley

The Civic Coalition on Palestinian Rights in Jerusalem, comprised of 25 community organizations, also welcomed the Dutch government’s advice to Royal HaskoningDHV to withdraw from the unlawful project.

The coalition wrote in an email to me that the sewage project primarily serves the interests of the illegal Israeli settlements in the occupied Jordan Valley by “providing them with treated water that will boost their farms and income from the trade of settlement produce.” The statement adds:

The Palestinian population in occupied East Jerusalem and the Jordan Valley has never been informed and consulted by Israel about the projected sewage plant. Had the Palestinian population been consulted, people would have definitely opted for a project that serves Palestinian environmental and economic priorities and excludes the illegal settlements.

The PLO’s Ashrawi commended the Dutch government for “translating its opposition to Israel’s disastrous settlement policy into action, in line with EU policy, and for urging Royal HaskoningDHV to end its involvement in this illegal project.”

It remains to be seen if the advice will be taken.




It's not true that the JWC excludes Israeli settlements. See my article in the journal Water Alternatives February 2013, which documents that over 100 settlement projects have been submitted to the JWC since 1995 and approved by the PA.


Also, the Israeli members of the JWC have refused to meet with their Palestinian counterparts since, I think it´s been 2 years since they haven´t met. But in those 2 years there have been water and sanitation projects in settlements, so it´s safe to say that at least in the last few years Israel has done settlement projects without JWC approval.

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