'Belgian bank won't lend to settlements'
Sources in the Council of Jewish Communities in Judea, Samaria, and the Gaza Strip told Israel Radio that in several cases, applicants were informed that their loans could not be approved as their localities were situated over the Green Line.
The bank reportedly cited the fear that if an agreement was to be signed between Israel and the Palestinians which resulted in settlements being dismantled, applicants would not be able to repay loans.
Shmuel Reifman, who chairs the Center for Regional Councils, confirmed Israel Radio’s report. He noted that certain entities which do not support Israel were putting pressure on Dexia, and threatening to downsize investments in the company if it continues to extend credit to councils over the Green Line.
The local subsidiary of the company, Dexia Israel, responded to the report by saying that the bank operates solely according to business considerations.
Dexia Israel Bank, formerly Otzar Hashilton Hamekomi and a subsidiary of the French-Belgium Dexia Group, is a specialized bank for Israeli local authorities and financing of municipalities while also providing banking services to the general public including short and long-term credit, receipt of deposits, and current accounts. Based in Tel Aviv with a workforce of 40 employees.
Dexia Israel plays an important role as an intermediary for financial transfers between the state and local authorities. Dexia Israel is the third largest bank in terms of lending to municipalities after Bank Hapoalim and Bank Leumi.
In February 2001, the Dexia Group, a global leader in public sector financing, acquired control of Otzar Hashilton Hamekomi and presently holds 65.31% of the bank’s share capital. Additional shareholders are the Union of Local Authorities. In January last year, Dexia Israel received a full banking license from the Bank of Israel allowing the bank to expand its products and activities in Israel. Sharon Wrobel
Dexia Israel’s decision was reported on various Palestinian Web sites as early as June this year, apparently as the result of a political campaign in Belgium.
One pro-Palestinian site quoted Dexia’s management as saying that funding Judea and Samaria settlements was against the bank’s code of ethics.
Judea and Samaria local council heads called for the bank to be closed down, stating that any company that refused to give loans to settlements should not be allowed to make money from other authorities within Israel.
The leaders also called on Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak to extend loans to local councils in the West Bank.
Sharon Wrobel contributed to this report.
June 11. 2009
The Belgian-French financial group Dexia has announced it will no longer finance Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories through its Israeli branch Dexia Israel.
This is the result of a months-long campaign in Belgium, supported by NGO’s, political parties, local authorities, trade unions and other organizations. Dexia’s management states that financing Israeli settlements is indeed against the bank’s code of ethics and it will stop giving loans due to this.
In 2001 Dexia Group buys the Israeli bank Otzar Hashilton Hamekomi and renames the bank Dexia Public Finance Israel. Just like other Dexia subsidiaries, Dexia Israel is specialized in financing municipalities and other local authorities.
It takes until October 2008 for a few Belgian solidarity groups to discover that Dexia Israel is not only financing regular Israeli municipalities but is also granting loans to illegal settlements in the Palestinian territories. In a document of the Knesset (Israeli Parliament), the director of Dexia Israel, Mr. David Kapah, confirms that the bank has indeed granted credits to seven settlements and three regional authorities in the occupied West bank between 2003 and 2007.
This ‘smoking gun’ evidence entails the start of a fast growing campaign in Belgium. United under the slogan ‘Israel colonizes, Dexia finances’, the campaign knows its first successes. In the following months petitions are being launched, MP’s are being questioned and local actions are being started up. Very important is the support of local Belgian authorities such as municipalities and provinces, as they hold a vast amount of shares in Dexia Group.
Today the action platform consists of 61 Belgian organizations, gathered over 4000 signatures and got 29 local authorities to sign a resolution. They all demand that Dexia breaks off its relations with the settlements and stops financing the occupation immediately.
Dexia: ‘Guilty, but we won’t do it again’
For several months the Belgian government and the Dexia management never really responded to the demands of the action platform. However as the campaign started to get more media coverage and the pressure started to rise, something changed. On May 13, the activists of the campaign were able to voice demands at the annual shareholders meeting of Dexia Group in Brussels.
In response, Jean-Luc Dehaene, chairman of the board of Dexia and former Belgian prime minister, admitted that the bank has been extending loans to Israeli colonies. He stresses however that, since September 2008, there has been no additional financing of these or other colonies.
Dehaene declared no new loans will be granted to the settlements. He added that the credits and loans to the settlements which are granted before are in runoff and will not be prolonged any longer; neither will they be replaced by similar loans.
Dehaene: “In the past, Dexia Israel granted 5 million Euros of loans to the settlements, this was only 1% of the total budget of Dexia Israel. The loans to the Jerusalem municipality are not included in this amount, as Dexia Group feels that Jerusalem is not contested territory.”
However, East Jerusalem belongs to Palestine. Israel unilaterally annexed East Jerusalem in June 1967, and extended Israeli law, jurisdiction, and administration to this part of the city.
In response the Security Council adopted resolution 252 that it “[UN Security Council] Considers that all legislative measures by Israel, including expropriation of land and properties thereon, which tend to change the legal status of Jerusalem are invalid and cannot change that status”.
In 1980 Israel declared Jerusalem the capital of Israel, including East Jerusalem. The same year the UN Security Council adopts resolution 476 that the Security Council
“Reconfirms that all legislative and administrative measures and actions taken by Israel, the occupying Power, which purport to alter the character and status of Jerusalem have no legal validity and constitute a flagrant violation of the Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War and also constitute a serious obstruction to achieving a comprehensive, just and lasting peace in the Middle East”.
Dexia’s financial support to the municipality of Jerusalem can be considered as support to the colonization of East Jerusalem.
Dehaene also states that the activities of Dexia Israel do not belong to the core-business of Dexia Group anymore, adding: “Don’t be surprised that at one point, Dexia Group will sell Dexia Israel”.
The campaign has been fruitful already, but this is not the end
According to Mario Franssen, spokesperson of the action platform, the campaign will continue until Dexia has officially declared ~ and provided the proof for ~ a full stop of settlement funding, including the disputed loans to Jerusalem.
Franssen explains that the action platform is not yet satisfied, but these concessions from Dexia are a good start.
"We are still demanding a full and immediate stop of all connections between Dexia and the colonies. Dexia is guilty of financing the occupation, and this has to end”, Franssen added.THE GOOD NEWS IS, DEXIA HAS STOPPED FINANCING THE SETTLEMENTS AND NOW DEALS WITH ANGRY ISRAELIS WHO MOST LIKELY CONSIDER THEM TO BE ANTI SEMITIC. THE REST OF THE WORLD SMILES AND CHALKS UP ANOTHER SMALL VICTORY TOWARDS ENDING THE INCARCERATION OF THE PALESTINIANS.