Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte’s Sunday visit started out fine, with a visit to Yad Vashem (with yarmulke), but then was spoiled by a major disagreement between the Dutch and Israeli premiers over a new security scanner that was to be installed with great fanfare on the Gaza border.
Rutte expected to inaugurate the scanner at the Kerem Shalom crossing, on the border with the Gaza Strip, but that’s probably not going to happen.
“Installation of the Dutch scanner, which would have been used to verify the contents of containers from Gaza destined for export, was postponed after the Netherlands made unexpected demands,” an Israeli official told AFP.
“Technically, there is no problem about the scanner at the Kerem Shalom crossing, through which goods originating in Gaza pass,” the official said, explaining: “The Dutch suddenly imposed political conditions, notably on the percentage of merchandise destined for the West Bank or abroad. These are political issues that need to be resolved at the highest level, which will delay the start-up of the scanner.”
In a lengthy, face to face conversation, Prime Minister Netanyahu told his Dutch counterpart that, as much as he would like there to be normal relations between the PA and Gaza, with goods traveling in both directions, the Arabs “sometimes use this to negative ends.”
Netanyahu gave the example of how the Hamas used too tons of cement which Israel permitted through its border with Gaza, to dig a terror tunnel into Israel, for the purpose of kidnapping Israeli civilians, to be used later in exchange with terrorist killers held in Israeli jails.
Netanyahu conceded that security considerations should not come at the expense of the civilian population in Gaza, but on occasion there’s no avoiding it.
According to Ha’aretz, the past two weeks have been marked by hectic disputes between the Netherlands and Israel over the use of the scanner the Dutch donated for use in the Gaza border crossing. Israeli security officials told the Dutch they wanted a separation between Gaza and the PA, and so the scanner must be used chiefly for goods being exported abroad, and not going to the PA.
The Dutch were making the case that the scanner was fool proof and should offer the guarantee Israel needed to accept shipments from Gaza to the PA. But the Israeli defense ministry stuck to its guns.
Prime Minister Rutte met with Israeli-Palestinian peace organizations Monday morning, and expressed his disappointment of the Israeli stubbornness.
“I don’t understand this decision,” he said. “The scanner was donated by Holland and positioned at Kerem Shalom precisely because of the Israeli security concerns.”
There was also a diplomatic spat Sunday concerning Judea and Samaria, where Dutch Foreign Minister Frans Timmermans, who is traveling with Rutte, cancelled a planned event rather than accept an Israeli military escort, a Dutch foreign ministry official said.
Timmermans had planned to visit Palestinians in Hebron.
“It was the minister himself who decided to cancel that part of the visit,” Ahmed Dadou, a spokesman for Timmermans, told AFP in The Hague.
“It’s normal to be accompanied by the Israeli military in the part occupied by settlers but it’s not usual in the Palestinian part,” he said.
“Other foreign ministers have previously visited the city unaccompanied by Israeli soldiers in the Palestinian sector and Mr. Timmermans did not want to accept this new condition in order not to set a precedent.”
Netanyahu said that he had not been aware of the planned visit.
“These are not political directives,” he said, according to a statement by his office. “I do not know how we guard foreign dignitaries on visits. We have security details that do what is necessary. Minister Timmermans is a welcome guest.”
Timmermans instead visited a Palestinian dairy in another part of Hebron.
Finally an area of life a Dutchman fully comprehends.