Dutch PM Rutte Presents New coalition Deal: What Does it Say About Israel and Anti-Semitism?

  • October 16, 2017

ADL's Dutch partner, CIDI, provided the following analysis of the new Dutch government's policies on anti-Semitism and the Middle East Peace Process.

After a record 208 days of negotiating a new government, Dutch Prime Minister Rutte presented his coalition deal today. The new government of the Netherlands will consist of four parties: Rutte’s centre-right VVD, the Christian Democrats, the progressive D66 party and the smaller, conservative Christian Union. It is the third consecutive government led by Rutte. What does the coalition deal promise for the Dutch government’s policy towards Israel, and the fight against antisemitism?

The Center for Information and Documentation on Israel (CIDI), a Dutch organization dedicated to strengthening the ties between the Netherlands and Israel and combating antisemitism analyzed the coalition deal.

Two state solution

The new government’s position towards Israel and the Palestinians has not changed. The foreign policy paragraph of the coalition deal states:

“The Netherlands contributes to peace and security in the Middle East. The Netherlands uses its good relations with Israel and the Palestinian Authority to preserve and realize the two state solution: an independent, democratic and viable Palestinian state next to a safe and internationally recognized Israel. The Netherlands also promotes the improvement of mutual ties between Israelis and Palestinians.”

It is hardly surprising that the new government supports the two state solution. None of the four parties that make up the new government are opposed to a Palestinian state next to Israel. Consecutive Dutch governments over the past years have taken pride in their good relations with Israel as well as the Palestinian Authority. Thanks to its good ties with both parties, the Netherlands has a valuable position within the European Union to promote peace negotiations in the Middle East.

The Center for Information and Documentation Israel (CIDI), a Dutch organization that seeks to protect and strengthen Dutch-Israeli ties and is dedicated to combating antisemitism, had sent a letter with recommendations to the prospective coalition partners during the coalition talks. The new coalition deal contains a number of these recommendations, such as promoting an independent and democratic Palestinian state and continuing Dutch efforts for Israel’s security and international recognition.

Unfortunately, not all recommendations found their way into the new coalition deal. Despite CIDI’s recommendation to do so, the new government does not promise action to contain the destabilizing influence of the Iranian regime and its proxies. Even so, CIDI expressed its hope that Rutte’s cabinet is aware of Iran’s danger and will support suitable measures against Iran in international fora.

No new measures against antisemitism

“There is no place in Dutch society for antisemitism,” says the coalition deal’s chapter on integration.

“A democratic society can only function if we draw a line where someone else’s freedoms are threatened, if everyone participates and if discrimination is combated.”

The coalition parties stress that quick integration of asylum seekers in Dutch society is “of great importance”. The new government says that new immigrants are expected to do “all they can to integrate”. This entails “respecting our laws” and “embracing our freedoms and our equality”. By mentioning antisemitism in the integration chapter, the coalition parties seem to suggest that failing integration of immigrants will result in increasing antisemitism.

The Dutch laws against discrimination and incitement will remain intact. It is illegal in the Netherlands to insult a person or group based on their ethnicity, gender or sexuality. The new government proposes to double the punishment for incitement, from one to two years.

The coalition deal’s paragraph on discrimination mostly stresses discrimination in the labor market. There is no mention of new measures to combat racism and discrimination outside the labor market. This is somewhat disappointing. The prevention of racist and antisemitic beliefs should take place in an early stadium, i.e. at school. CIDI notices an increase in antisemitism in Dutch societyh, especially on the internet. For this reason, CIDI had called on the coalition parties to include measures against antisemitism in the new coalition deal.

Moreover, CIDI called upon the new government to strengthen the fight against antisemitism in an international context. One of CIDI’s proposals was to adopt the European Union’s Working Definition on Antisemitism in Dutch legislation. The previous government had said that adopting this definition as part of national legislation would have no added benefits. This position does not seem to have changed with the new government, which means that the Working Definition will have a non-binding status only.

Another important issue is good education about the Holocaust. The education ministry should see to it that the history of World War Two is properly taught in all Dutch schools. Moreover, education should pay attention to contemporary forms of antisemitism. Despite an increase in the education budget of the new government, specific measures to combat antisemitism through education are not mentioned.

 

Elkan van der Raaf and Paul van der Bas are policy assistants at the Center for Information and Documentation Israel (CIDI).