Israel tells Holland: Security trumps prosperity when it comes to Gaza scanner 10Dec13 December 10, 2013

Haaretz    -    9 December 2013

172954796Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told his Dutch counterpart on Sunday that while Israel was grateful for the Netherlands’ donation of a container scanner for use at a Gaza crossing, it still could not allow exports from Gaza to the West Bank due to the possibility that the equipment could be abused.

Israel’s refusal to allow Gaza to use the scanner to screen exports to the West Bank angered the Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte, who canceled a planned dedication ceremony for the scanner at the Kerem Shalom crossing.

Netanyahu and Rutte met for over an hour on Sunday to discuss the dispute over the scanner. After their meeting, the two spoke to the media, during which Netanyahu stressed, “Our concern is security. It is not to prevent prosperity. It’s to enable prosperity without undertaking impossible security challenges.

“The Dutch scanner I think is an important contribution to that. It’s already there. It can facilitate right now the screening of goods that go out to the European markets. We want to make sure that goods that go from there, from Gaza, do not contain weapons or explosives that can reach the Palestinian Authority areas.”

Netanyahu recalled the recent discovery of the long and well-built tunnel that ran from Gaza into Israeli territory.

“The tunnel had 700 tons of concrete − 700 tons of concrete into one tunnel. We think there are at least another 15-20 tunnels like that. So we allow them to bring concrete and then they use it for tunnels that are used for kidnapping or attacks against us. 

“So obviously we’re not interested in that. For this purpose, we welcome the bringing in of scanners to make sure that at least we control the material that goes in and out of Gaza.”

Speaking before Israeli and Palestinian peace activists earlier on Sunday, Rutte had expressed grave disappointment at Israel’s refusal to let the machine be used, as well as surprise, since the scanner had been donated “precisely because of Israeli security concerns,” one of the activists quoted Rutte as saying.

The dispute over the scanner evolved over the past two weeks, after the Dutch Foreign Ministry asked Israel’s ambassador to The Hague to forward a request that Jerusalem takes advantage of the new scanner to allow the export of goods from Gaza to the West Bank. The Dutch ambassador to Israel made a similar request of the Defense Ministry in Jerusalem.

A senior Israeli Foreign Ministry official said the Dutch request surprised Jerusalem, coming as it did at relatively short notice. Nevertheless, the ministry passed it on to Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon’s office. After a brief discussion, Israel rejected the request.

Defense Ministry officials explained that for security reasons, Israel wants to isolate the West Bank from the Gaza Strip, and allowing goods from the Strip into the West Bank would contradict this policy. Dutch officials countered that the new machine was supposed to provide a solution to Israel’s security concerns about Gaza exports. Nevertheless, the Defense Ministry remained adamant.

Israel’s refusal infuriated the Dutch government, leading to the cancellation of the dedication ceremony.

The Dutch Foreign Ministry confirmed the details of this report, saying the main purpose of the new scanner was to facilitate the resumption of exports from Gaza to the West Bank, as well as to Europe and the rest of the world, by providing a solution to Israel’s legitimate security concerns.

“The Dutch government strongly feels that positive, practical measures are needed to stimulate the ailing Gazan economy and to alleviate the worsening humanitarian situation for the people in Gaza,” the Dutch Foreign Ministry said in a statement. “We were given to understand that the accompanying easing of export procedures that we would like to see in this regard are subject of unfinished internal policy deliberations by various parties, including the government of Israel, with whom this issue has been discussed on various occasions, at different levels.”

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