Military cooperation of the Netherlands with Israel is inappropriate

Image: Activestills

April 3, 2023

On Thursday, the Dutch parliament will discuss a treaty on military cooperation between the Netherlands and Israel with Defence Minister Ollongren. According to PAX it is incomprehensible that the Netherlands wants to cooperate with Israel militarily and calls for an end to this cooperation.

Israel has occupied Palestinian territory for decades, annexing it, expanding illegal settlements, driving residents off their land and demolishing buildings. This year alone, over 100 Palestinians have been killed. Over and over again, human rights violations and war crimes are committed in the process. The debate in Dutch parliament centres on a so-called status treaty, which regulates the legal status of military personnel on each other’s territory. But how can the Netherlands justify cooperation with a Israeli military responsible for aforementioned crimes?

Why cooperate? 

Anyone who has been to the Palestinian territory can see for themselves that one of the main tasks of the Israeli armed forces is to perpetuate the occupation. Why does the Netherlands want to cooperate such an armed force?

Military cooperation with Israel focuses, among other things, on knowledge exchange. Again, the question: why would the Netherlands want to exchange military knowledge with Israel – knowledge that would make Israel more capable of occupying Palestinian territory and perpetuating injustice and inequality? Military cooperation is unacceptable, just as it would be unacceptable to cooperate militarily with Russia.

Not only does the Israeli armed forces commit the crimes listed above, those responsible go unpunished. Human rights organisations have documented time and again that even the most obvious human rights violations and war crimes go unpunished. Israeli human rights organisation Yesh Din, for example, reported that between 2017 and 2021, less than 1 percent of Israeli soldiers who caused Palestinian suffering were charged.

Impunity is the norm

Impunity is the norm, including murder. A good, albeit extremely painful illustration of this is the tragic death of Palestinian-American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh, who was killed by the Israeli military in May last year. Independent investigations suggest that the journalist may have been killed deliberately, but the soldier responsible hasn’t been prosecuted.

Cooperation with an armed force that commits crimes with impunity is incomprehensible. The least the Netherlands can do is to make military cooperation with Israel conditional on prosecuting those responsible for human rights violations and war crimes, starting with the perpetrator who killed Abu Akleh.

In response to questions from the House of Representatives, the Dutch minister replied that the status treaty does not exclude Israeli military personnel who are (potentially) responsible for human rights violations or war crimes from participating in military cooperation. This is absurd. At least, through monitoring of participants in cooperation, this should be prevented.

But military cooperation with Israel should end completely. It is simply morally unacceptable to cooperate with an occupying power, in Europe or in the Middle East. Moreover, such cooperation undermines important international standards that the Netherlands regularly claims to defend. This also makes it a question of credibility for the Dutch government.

Get involved with our peace work.
Subscribe to the PAX Action Alert.