The Palestinians have launched a diplomatic campaign calling on countries to prohibit private companies operating within their borders from conducting business in the West Bank settlements and east Jerusalem.
Mohammad Shtayyeh, a senior economic official and negotiator in the peace talks with Israel, told the Financial Times on Thursday that the Palestinian Authority’s minister of foreign affairs had begun sending letters about a month ago to 50 countries that are home to 504 companies with business in settlements, asking them to withdraw their investment or freeze their activities.
Commercial activity in the settlements is illegal and constitutes a violation of international law, the letters said.
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According to the Financial Times report, the target companies include some that have long been in the sights of pro-Palestinian activists for their businesses in or with West Bank settlements. These include Veolia, the French environmental and infrastructure group, and G4S, the UK security group which provides screening equipment for military checkpoints and manages security systems at the Ofer Prison in the West Bank.
Shtayyeh said the campaign was also aimed at achieving the suspension or termination of business dealings with Israeli companies and financial institutions, such as Bank Hapoalim and Bank Leumi, that both operate in the West Bank and have overseas branches.
"The duty of the government is to tell the private sector company, ‘Maybe you don’t know you are investing in something illegal'," Shtayyeh said. "We wrote letters to every single country that has national investments in settlements, or countries that have Israeli companies with business in settlements."
Another Palestinian official said the list was based on research from the Palestinians' own "Karama" (dignity) campaign to identify settlement companies, as well as studies made by Israeli civil society groups such as Who Profits, which tracks companies' activities in the territories.
The governments contacted include countries in Europe and Latin America, South Africa, Australia, Japan and South Korea. Shtayyeh said the campaign would also focus on "some Arab investors" although he declined to name them.
The campaign follows the EU’s recent decision to cut off funding for entities based in settlements. The EU
is also promoting a procedure for labeling all products from West Bank settlements being sold by retail outlets in Europe.
Shtayyeh told the Financial Times that the Palestinians were also calling on foreign countries to “label settlers” who hold dual Israeli and other nationalities.
"If you have settlers with double nationality, the country that is issuing or has the nationality of these settlers should notify them to tell them 'Your presence in that territory is illegal'," he said, adding that the Palestinians were raising this as a "talking point" with foreign countries.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor said in response that "no spin can change the fact that they (Palestinians) are continuing an anti-Israel campaign despite the (peace) talks and despite a clear promise not to do so. If they chose to do this, they should also state clearly that, if successful, (the initiative) will cost the jobs of 20,000-30,000 Palestinians."
You can contact Elior Levy, Ynet's Palestinian Affairs Correspondent, at: email@example.com
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