JERUSALEM (EJP) --- Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu revealed he had agreed to form a bilateral Dutch-Israeli Cooperation Forum spanning the fields of energy and technology Monday. Following a meeting with Dutch Foreign Minister Frans Timmermans, a statement from Netanyahu – who is also currently serving as his acting Israeli counterpart – confirmed the agreement was aimed at “increasing cooperation in the field of innovation and by bringing together representatives from the business sector, academia, civil society and the government, and to explore new fields of possible cooperation” with Israel’s close Dutch allies.
The first meeting of the new forum will be held in Israel at the end of this year by the Prime Ministers of Israel and Holland, in the company of other high-profile government ministers, following which meetings will be held every other year in each country. The latest upgrade in bilateral relations between the Jewish State and the Netherlands follows the establishment of a scheme promoting a mutual trading relationship between the allies last June, during a visit by Dutch Vice Prime Minister and Minister of Economic Affairs Maxime Verhagen to Israel, at the head of a delegation of 60 Dutch business representatives.
Long considered one of Israel’s staunchest supporters amongst EU member states, Verhagen led the trip of Holland’s business officials from across agricultural, technological and energy fields to Israel to open local offices of the Netherlands Foreign Investment Agency (NFIA) and the Netherlands Office for Science and Technology (NOST), both of which will be directed by Innovation Advisor for the Economic Section of the Netherlands Embassy in Tel Aviv, Paul Jansen.
Dismissing the difference in economic output between Israel and its wealthy European ally, Jansen insisted the two countries had much to offer each other, declaring “Israel is more innovative than we are”. “In a sense I believe that the Israeli economy is stronger than ours, since innovation is a big part of what makes a country strong,” he continued.
Referring to the growing number of Israeli companies choosing to base its European headquarters in Holland as well as the rising phenomenon of Israeli start-ups operating out of the country, Jansen claimed “Holland is a good place to do business and target the rest of Europe,” continuing to extrapolate: “We have the experienced personnel who know how to move in world markets, and if we cooperate on innovations we can develop new products and bring them to market.”
“We’re good for each other that way,” he concluded.
The Cooperation Forum similarly seeks to exploit Israel’s acclaimed expertise in the field of innovation.
Elsewhere, during his visit to the Jewish State, Timmermans also met with Israeli President Shimon Peres, at which meeting Peres expressed his gratitude “for your support and am grateful for the excellent relations between Israel and Holland”. The two politicians discussed ways of strengthening their bilateral diplomatic relations, as the Dutch FM told Peres of the importance Holland attached to US Secretary of State John Kerry’s efforts to reinvigorate stalled Mid East peace talks with the aim of realising the EU-backed two state solution.
Timmermans also invited Peres for an official state visit to Holland, on behalf of the Dutch monarch, King Willem-Alexander.
Last May, Holland was one of only two European countries to intervene in an EU council meeting which issued a highly critical statement of Israel. According to reports, Dutch representatives tried to moderate the tone of the “conclusions” which commented extensively on Israeli settlement activity. According to western diplomat sources, Dutch officials, in conjunction with their Italian counterparts, “made sure that certain element favourable to Israel, such as references to Palestinian incitement and Israel’s security needs, were inserted”.
Holland has also consistently supported Israel in international forums, such as UNESCO, where it opposed the admission of Palestine, and the UN General Assembly, and often speaks in Israel’s defence in internal EU meetings, however, the Dutch delegation to the UN abstained from last November’s GA vote on Palestinian non-member observer status, in line with other EU members and close Israeli allies Germany and Britain.
Explaining his country’s decision, the Dutch delegate, said they supported EU rhetoric on the issue, as well as a peace agreement based on the borders of 1967, with a viable independent State of Palestine and a secure State of Israel living side by side in peace and security. “The current status quo is untenable,” he said in that regard. The Netherlands supported Palestinian efforts to achieve statehood, but would have preferred the resolution to be postponed, as it could threaten negotiations at this time. For that reason, the Netherlands had decided to abstain in the vote. It stood ready to support negotiations, and would support both parties bilaterally, taking into account Palestinian aspirations for statehood and Israel’s need for security. He urged all parties to refrain from actions that undermined the prospect of a two-State solution, and particularly urged Israel to end its settlement activities.