Dutch Water Company Pressured to Resume Ties With Israeli Firm

Factions in government and parliament leaning on Vitens to rethink boycott of Mekorot, which supplies water to the West Bank and Israel.

Amira Hass
Amira Hass
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Amira Hass
Amira Hass

The Dutch water company Vitens, which last week severed ties with the Israeli water company Mekorot, is currently being pressured to rethink the decision by factions within the Dutch government and parliament.

In response to questions in parliament regarding Vitens’ decision to cancel the deal with Mekorot, which supplies water to Israel and the West Bank settlements, Dutch Foreign Minister Frans Timmermans stated that the decision has nothing to do with government policy (which dissuades Dutch companies from working with Israeli settlements or companies that assist them).

According to Timmermans, when Vitens officials consulted with the Dutch government regarding cooperation with Mekorot, they were told that the government was not opposed to the deal, so long as all cooperation was confined to Israeli territory, or did not assist West Bank settlements in any way.

Holland, Timmermans said, opposes the boycott on Israel and Israeli companies. On the other hand, the foreign minister stated that the Dutch government does not intervene in the decisions of private companies.

Timmermans also revealed that Holland contributed $1.5 million to a feasibility study that led to the joint agreement between Jordan, Israel and the Palestinian Authority to build a water channel from the Red Sea to the Dead Sea, and a facility to purify seawater. Holland, said Timmermans, also contributed technological expertise to the plan. “The government supports projects that foster cooperation between Israel and the Palestinians, and helps to fund such projects itself, including cooperation with Mekorot,” said Timmermans.

Vitens, the largest public water supplier in Holland, stated last Tuesday that it was cutting off all ties with the Israeli water company Mekorot, roughly a month after the two signed a cooperation agreement.

In an official statement, representatives for Vitens wrote that the company places great importance on integrity and commitment to Dutch law, as well as to international law and norms. “Following further consultation with various officials, including the foreign ministry, the company decided that it would be very difficult to engage in cooperative projects in the future, considering the fact that any projects will have a political context,” read the statement.

Vitens is the largest water supplier in Holland, with over 5.4 million customers. It has 1,700 employees and over 47,500 kilometers of water pipes, which transfer some 350 million cubic meters of water every year. The company’s annual earnings total roughly 450 million euro.

Mekorot National Water Company's Eshkol site. Credit: Hagai Frid

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