On the day of the last Foreign Office questions – December 3rd – Hugh Robertson finally published his long-promised “business guidance” to firms trading with illegal settlements by uploading it onto the DTI’s Overseas Business Risk website, but he made no announcement and did not even mention it when he was questioned about settlement trade in the Commons.
Now, six weeks later, is the first opportunity to question him about it. The first thing is to congratulate him on at least saying the Government “does not encourage” trade with illegal settlements. The second is to press him to go further than this very cautious first step.
It took the press a week before they even noticed that new business guidance was up on the website – so has he notified companies already trading with settlements? Has he warned companies that they are running legal and reputational risks by trading with illegal settlements?
The guidance says:
- We do not encourage economic or financial activities in the settlements. We do not offer support to such activity.
- Firms must be aware of legal and economic risks in financial transactions, investments, purchases, procurements, other economic activities, including tourism, in Israeli settlements or benefiting Israeli settlements owing to disputed titles to land, water, mineral or other natural resources
- They must also be aware of potential reputational implications of getting involved in economic and financial activities in settlements.
William Hague applauds the effectiveness of economic sanctions on Iran and says this week’s deal “vindicates the policy of pressure through sanctions”, but recoils from effective economic pressure on Israel even though he admits Israel is in clear breach of international law on settlements, on the wall, on prisoners in Israeli jails and on east Jerusalem.
A report in The Independent this week says that the OECD is holding an inquiry into G4S’s sale of surveillance equipment to Israeli for use in checkpoints in Palestine. Also this week Dutch pension fund PGGM has withdrawn over of million euros from five Israeli banks because of their involvement in illegal settlements in the West Bank.