Dutch PM calls for end to settlements, says BDS ‘protected,’ not backed

With Netanyahu looking on, Mark Rutte defends country’s labeling of West Bank products; urges preservation of 2-state solution
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Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte called for the end of Israeli settlements and defended Holland’s labeling of Israeli produce from the West Bank during a joint press conference with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday.

Rutte also called for the creation of a Palestinian state, “alongside Israel, on the basis of the 1967 borders,” during his remarks in The Hague.

“We need to preserve the two-state solution in all its aspects, territorial, social and political,” Rutte said.

“Settlement buildings needs to stop, and so do demolitions and incitement,” he added.

The demolitions likely refer to Israel’s announced plan to raze the Palestinian hamlet of Susya in the southern West Bank, which Jerusalem says is built illegally. The move has drawn sharp condemnation from Europe and elsewhere.

It was not clear what incitement Rutte was speaking of, but Israeli officials have complained frequently to the international community over what they term Palestinian incitement toward violence, some of it from official Palestinian Authority sources.

Palestinians have also accused Israeli leaders and others of inciting against them.

The Dutch premier defended his country’s labeling of Israeli products made in the West Bank, saying the measure was implemented in accordance with the existing European Union law passed in 2012.

Jerusalem has bristled at the labeling regime implemented in recent years by the EU, saying it amounts to an anti-Semitic boycott of the Jewish state. But Rutte rebuffed those claims.

“This is not a boycott of products from the West Bank,” Rutte emphasized. “The Netherlands opposes such a boycott.”

“This is a matter of providing supermarkets with information,” he added.

As for the Boycott Divestment Sanctions campaign targeting Israel, Rutte defended the movement as “protected under the freedom of expression and freedom of assembly.”

But he quickly added that his own government did not back the effort and sought deeper economic ties with Israel.

The Netherlands are interested in expanding economic relations “with Israel in the 1967 borders,” he said.

People demonstrate against the visit of Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to the Netherlands in The Hague, on September 6, 2016. (AFP PHOTO / ANP / Bart Maat)

People demonstrate against the visit of Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to the Netherlands in The Hague, on September 6, 2016. (AFP PHOTO / ANP / Bart Maat)

Netanyahu in his remarks praised the strong relations between the two allies and announced the Dutch government would assist Israel in boosting energy and water supplies to the Gaza Strip by laying a gas pipeline to the Palestinian territory.

“We want to help the population of Gaza and the first step is to improve the supply of energy and water… including laying a gas pipeline,” Netanyahu said during a two-day visit to The Netherlands.

After talks with his Dutch counterpart, Netanyahu said his cabinet had already made a decision to lay the pipeline and thanked Rutte for his help “in realizing this project.”

The Netherlands would also facilitate expert meetings between Dutch, Israeli and Palestinian officials focusing on energy and water, he said.

Netanyahu was also asked about the postponement of a long-anticipated meeting with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, which Abbas had said was planned to be held in Moscow on Friday.

Abbas announced earlier Tuesday that Netanyahu had suggested delaying the Russian-backed gathering.

AFP contributed to this report.

Dutch PM calls for end to settlements, says BDS ‘protected,’ not backed

With Netanyahu looking on, Mark Rutte defends country’s labeling of West Bank products; urges preservation of 2-state solution
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