Saturday, 13 June 2009

Dutch government split on Israel ties

Ruling center-right party supports upgrading European Union's relations with Israel despite standstill in peace talks with Palestinians. Labor oppose, saying it would be 'completely ridiculous to give Israel presents now'

Source: article by Hagar Mizrachi @ YNet

The Dutch government is spilt over whether relations between the European Union and Israel should be upgraded. The Labor party, headed by Finance Minister Wouter Bos, opposed stepping up political and commercial ties with Israel, days before a European Parliament session matter slated for next week.

Dutch newspaper De Volkskrant reported on Thursday that the center-right Christian parties, including the ruling Christian Democratic Appeal party headed by Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende, support Foreign Minister Maxime Jacques Marcel Verhagen's [see: Dutch Foreign Minister deplores revived antisemitism in Europe] pro-Israel stance.

Labor, the country's second largest party, on the other hand, demand that any upgrading of ties with Israel should depend on the continuation of the political peace process with the Palestinians.
Labor member Marcel van Dam, who is currently visiting Israel and the Palestinian Authority as part of a European delegation, said it would be "completely ridiculous to give Israel presents now".

Foreign Minister Verhagen is also slated to visit Israel and the Gaza Strip later on in the month, to evaluate for himself the progress of efforts to rebuild the Strip.

Verhagen has also been receiving criticism from home. Last week, former Prime Minister Dries van Agt and former Foreign Minister Hans van den Broek, both members of Verhagen's Christian Democratic Appeal party, published an op-ed, in which they adamantly opposed supporting Israel.

Israel must show 'earnestness'

The two expressed an opinion similar to that of the finance minister, saying that Israel should first show "earnestness" with regards to the establishment of a Palestinian state.

The Christian Union party, which is the third most important in the Dutch coalition, is now working to prevent the application of economic pressure on Israel that has been demanded by the Labor party. According to Christian Union members, improving economic ties with Israel and the Palestinians may bring the vision of peace closer.

Arie Slob, the party's representative in the lower house of the Netherlands' parliament, published an article on Friday calling the move "a primitive and authoritarian attempt" to impose a peace agreement on Israel.

"The Palestinians are not living up to the terms set by the international community, including renouncing violence and recognizing Israel. Any attempt to pressure Israel now will only lead to a 'three-state' solution," he wrote. [...]

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