Oct 2, 2010

#BDS: Israeli mayors' visit runs aground in Spain, Netherlands

The Association of Netherlands Municipalities (VNG) canceled a 19 September visit by Israeli mayors because the delegation included leaders of illegal Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank, igniting a firestorm in the Dutch parliament centered at foreign affairs minister Maxime Verhagen.

The visit of thirty Israeli mayors to the Netherlands was organized by the Israeli branch of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC). The aim of the trip was to learn more about public policies and the Dutch system of local, regional and national authorities. 

While preparing for the visit, the JDC contacted the embassy of the Netherlands in Tel Aviv which requested that the JDC submit a list of participants. On the list appeared the names of mayors of Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank: Beit Aryeh, Har Adar, Kiryat Arba, Oranit, Beit El, Efrat and Elkana. The Israeli news site Ynet reported that when the Union of Local Authorities in Israel requested that VNG assist in organizing the tour, it did not mention that mayors from settlements would be participating ("Holland calls off settlement heads' visit," 19 September 2010).

According to Ynet, the head of the Council of Efrat, Oded Revivi, said that the mayors' visit was originally planned for Spain. However, the tour was called off following the deadly raid on the Gaza Freedom Flotilla at end of May. "The Spanish said we were not welcome there, so we moved to Holland and asked to meet with Holland's ambassador to Israel. When they asked for the list we realized we had run aground," said Revivi. The JDC has facilitated similar trips to Denmark, France and China. 

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