Deutsche Bahn Pulls Out of TA-Jerusalem Railroad

Firm was pressured by Berlin because line will pass through West Bank.

The campaign to impose a boycott on projects beyond the Green Line has scored a success: Germany's national railway company, Deutsche Bahn, recently decided to drop out of the Jerusalem-Tel Aviv rail project because the line will pass in part through the West Bank.

The company's decision marks a victory for left-wing Israeli and Palestinian activists who waged a campaign to secure it over the last few months.

According to a report in Der Spiegel, the German transport minister, Peter Ramsauer, told Deutsche Bahn's CEO that the projected rail line is "problematic from a political perspective" and violates international law. As a result, the company, which is owned by the German government, announced its withdrawal from the project.

The company had been serving as a consultant to Israel Railways, and for this specific project was responsible primarily for reviewing documents.

The campaign against the German company's involvement in the project started last year with a report released by the Coalition of Women for Peace. The report said that not only would the tracks cross the Green Line in two spots, near Latrun and Beit Surik, but the project would also severely affect the residents of three Palestinian villages along the Green Line. Specifically, it said, land would be expropriated from these villages for the project and access to the villages would be impaired.

The report also listed the names of the international corporations involved in the project, including a Russian government corporation and private companies from Italy and other countries. The Coalition of Women for Peace then distributed the report to left-wing activists in Germany in order to exert pressure on the government in Berlin.

Decision welcomed

Merav Amir, a member of the coalition, welcomed the decision this week. "I congratulate the German government on its clear declaration regarding the illegality of the rail line," she said. "It is encouraging to see governments acting in accordance with the pacts they signed. We call on other governments to follow in its footsteps."

The activists are hoping that other foreign companies, both private and government-owned, will follow Deutsche Bahn's lead and cease their involvement in the project.

The fast rail line from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem is scheduled to be completed in 2017, after which the trip is to take just 28 minutes. It is one of the biggest and most important infrastructure projects currently under construction in Israel and includes a complex network of tunnels and bridges. In the past, the project was assailed by the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel because of the anticipated damage to the environment.

Israel Railways said in response that Deutsche Bahn is responsible for only a small part of the project and the Israeli firm is now preparing to find a company to replace it.