Oct 15, 2010

#BDS: BDS Victory: Veolia Sells Shares in Jerusalem Light Rail

Veolia has signed a principled agreement to sell its shares in the Jerusalem Light Rail to the Israeli transportation cooperative Egged, reportsTheMarker today (15 October). This sale marks a substantial victory for the Palestinian-led international campaign for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) against Israel.

According to the agreement, Veolia will receive NIS 45 million (approximately EURO 9 million) for its shares, which will be gradually transferred to Egged over a five year period from the first day of the light rail's operation. This gradual transfer ensures compliance with conditions of the initial tender, which mandate that the light rail operator must have a minimum of five years experience in operations. Egged will also pay increasing percentages of the sale as the light rail becomes increasingly profitable.

The EUR 9 million to be received by Veolia is miniscule compared to the almost EUR 5 billion of contracts that Veolia has lost around the world due to the BDS movement in the past two years, most prominently a EUR 3 billion tender in Sweden.

Finalisation of the sale requires confirmation of various Israeli authorities and the other partners in the light rail. The biggest threat to finalization of the sale, however, was liable to come from Israel's anti-trust laws, as this sale would make Egged the monopoly holder of public transportation in Jerusalem. According to AIC economist Shir Hever, "It seems probable, however, that the Israeli Anti-Trust Authority signaled it would approve the sale, most likely due to Israeli concern over the detrimental impact of the BDS campaign on the rail's burgeoning costs and never-ending delays."

Veolia has been a target of the Palestinian-led international campaign for Boycott, Sanctions and Divestment (BDS) against Israel until the latter recognizes Palestinian human and national rights and fulfills its obligations under international law. Veolia has been trying to find a buyer for two years already, as a result of the boycott pressure. This political pressure has caused numerous delays in operation of the rail, which was supposed to begin functioning in 2008 and now will not begin before 2011.


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