January 28th, 2013 • Israel’s decision to go ahead with the building of the wall in the face of criticisms from the international community means that the Netherlands must make its opposition known in no uncertain terms.
SP Member of Parliament Harry van Bommel
Former Prime Minister Dries van Agt today presented Parliament with 65,000 signatures on a petition from the citizens’ initiative ‘Demolish the Wall’. The petition demands the imposition of sanctions against Israel in response to the country’s continuing with the building of the illegal wall in the occupied Palestinian territory. As well as being illegal the wall also represents a major obstacle to peace between Israel and the Palestinians and for this reason greater pressure must be brought to bear to prevent its completion.
The wall will be a disaster for the West Bank Palestinians. Dwellings will be flattened to make way for it and many thousands will be separated from their families, farms, schools and hospitals.
Around two-thirds of the seven hundred or so kilometre length of the wall has already been built. If the structure is completed, 85% of it will run through occupied Palestine and the area where the illegal settlements are found. Because of this, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in 2004 declared the wall to be in breach of international law and called for the dismantling of the section which stands on Palestinian territory.
The Dutch government recognises the catastrophe for the Palestinians which the wall will create and shares the ICJ’s opinion of its illegality. It also noted in 2004 that the wall could seriously undermine negotiations for peace. Israel has, however, expressed strong disapproval of the ICJ’s ruling and the international community has done nothing whatsoever about it. The Netherlands and the EU, though they have expressed their concerns to Israel, have not followed up these words with deeds.
The many thousands who signed the citizens’ initiative consider the concerns expressed by the Netherlands to be far from proportionate to the seriousness of the breach of international law which the building of the wall represents. Precisely the same thing applies, for example, to the continual enlargement of the settlements and the sustained blockade of Gaza. Actions against these things fail to appear, only expressions of concern. It is logical to assume that the Israeli authorities won’t take these expressions of concern seriously if they are never linked to any consequences.
When in 2005 Parliament asked what the Netherlands was going to do to ensure that the ruling on the wall would be in real terms respected by Israel, the question was not answered but met with ridicule. A serious debate over the political significance of the Israeli wall in the Palestinian territory has never occurred in our country. Given the stipulation in our Constitution that the Netherlands must work to promote the international system of law, this is utterly shameful.
Van Agt’s initiative is deserving of full support. On the website of the citizens’ initiative a number of relevant proposals are listed which the new Minister of Foreign Affairs, Frans Timmermans, should adopt in order to exert pressure on Israel. In doing so he would be taking an excellent opportunity to distinguish himself from his predecessor.
This article first appeared, in Dutch, in the national daily newspaper the Reformatorisch Dagblad, on 22nd January 2013