A Dutch association of mayors has canceled a planned visit by 30 Israeli mayors on the advice of the Dutch Foreign Ministry, because four of the Israelis head West Bank settlements.
The joint seminar for Dutch and Israeli mayors had been organized by the Israeli branch of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee. But when the JDC gave the list of participants to the Dutch embassy in Israel, the embassy discovered that it included the mayors of four settlements: Efrat, Oranit, Beit Aryeh and Har Adar.
The embassy informed the Dutch Foreign Ministry, which warned the mayoral association that the presence of the settlement mayors would make the visit politically controversial.
The Dutch then asked whether these four mayors could be removed from list. But the Israelis - even including some mayors of Arab towns - refused, saying they would not allow the Dutch to dictate the delegation's composition. The hosts then announced that they were rescinding their invitation.
Yossi Levy, head of the Israeli Foreign Ministry's media department, said Israel was "deeply disappointed" by the Dutch decision, which "politicized a visit that was meant to be technical and professional."
The Union of Local Authorities also condemned the decision, pointing out that Israel's diverse population necessarily included mayors "from across the political spectrum."
Moreover, noted UAL chairman Shlomo Buhbut, similar seminars have been held in other European countries, including Denmark and France, without any problems.
Fadi Eyadat contributed to this report.