Dutch Engineering Giant Cancels East Jerusalem Project

The Dutch government had warned Royal HaskoningDHV against a wastewater treatment plant with the Jerusalem municipality, because it was to be built over the Green Line.

Dutch infrastructure giant Royal HaskoningDHV announced Friday that it has decided to withdraw from a project it planned with the Jerusalem municipality because it will be built over the Green Line.

Two weeks ago, Haaretz reported that the Dutch government has asked the company, Holland's largest engineering company to rethink its participation the sewage treatment plant because the project was based on the Palestinian side of the 1967 border, and that this would violate international law.

In a statement issued Friday, the Dutch company said that it had "advised the client it has decided to terminate the contract for the Kidron wastewater treatment plant project." It added that "the project is in the early stages of the preliminary design phase."

Royal HaskoningDHV carries out its work with the highest regard for integrity and in compliance with international laws and regulations," it stated. "In the course of the project, and after due consultation with various stakeholders, the company came to understand that future involvement in the project could be in violation of international law. This has led to the decision of Royal HaskoningDHV to terminate its involvement in the project."

The Dutch government warned Royal HaskoningDHV about the possible consequences of carrying out projects for Israeli companies in East Jerusalem or the West Bank, Haaretz reported last month.

Dutch Foreign Ministry officials told Royal HaskoningDHV that such a project would violate international law, leading the company to consider pulling out of the project to avoid financial, legal and image problems.

In the project, a sewage treatment plant would be built to battle the pollution in the Kidron stream, which runs from the Mount of Olives and the village of Silwan in East Jerusalem toward the settlement of Ma’aleh Adumim and the Dead Sea. The plant is to be built in Area C, under full Israeli military and civilian control.

A senior Israeli Foreign Minstry official told Haaretz that in the past two weeks there have been discussions with the Dutch government in an effort to solve the crisis, including talks with the Netherlands’ ambassador in Tel Aviv, Caspar Veldkamp. The Israeli ambassador to the Netherlands, Haim Divon, has also held talks with senior officials at the Dutch Foreign Ministry. At this stage it’s still unclear if the efforts by Israeli diplomats will lead to the resumption of the project. 

Two weeks ago, Haaretz reported that The Netherlands' government contacted Royal HaskoningDHV and recommended that it reconsider taking part in the project. The project was supposed to involve Mati, a subsidiary of Hagihon, the municipality’s water and sewage company. In the project, a sewage treatment plant would be built to battle the pollution in the Kidron stream, which runs from the Mount of Olives and the village of Silwan in East Jerusalem toward the settlement of Ma’aleh Adumim and the Dead Sea. The plant is to be built in Area C, under full Israeli military and civilian control.

Foreign Ministry Spokesman Yigal Palmor said in response that the project meets all the requirements of Israeli and international law. "The decision of the Dutch company to back away from the project indicates that political pressure that has nothing to do with law was applied to it," Palmor said. "The result of the intimidation and harassment of the company is that Palestinian residents will be denied an important public service. It is hard to see how this serves a European interest."

PLO Executive Committee member Dr. Hanan Ashrawi welcomed the company's move, saying, “This project deepens Israel’s annexation of East Jerusalem, consolidates its occupation of the West Bank and constitutes another obstacle to the establishment of an independent and sovereign Palestinian state in the 1967 borders with East Jerusalem as its capital.”

“I commend the Dutch government for translating its opposition to Israel’s disastrous settlement policy into action, which is in line with EU policy, and for urging Royal HaskoningDHV to end its participation in this illegal project,” said Dr. Ashrawi.

“We call on international corporations to terminate their projects and activities with links to the military occupation and to the illegal settlements."

Yaron Rosenthal