Belgian officials boycott trade delegation to Israel

Cnaan Liphshiz

(JTA) — Two of Belgium’s local governments pulled out of a trade delegation to Israel, citing alleged violations of international law and lack of progress in the peace process.

The foreign trade secretary of the government of the Brussels region, Pascal Smet, announced the move Thursday, the RTBF broadcaster reported. The move is a major victory for proponents of attempts to boycott Israel, who have so far had few breakthroughs in their attempts to shape Belgian-Israeli relations.

Elio Di Rupo, a former prime minister of the kingdom of Belgium and the current prime minister of the Belgian state of Wallonia, last week pulled out of the delegation, which is set to take place Dec 8-11 and include businessmen and representatives of commercial enterprises from across Belgium.

“The lack of progress in the peace process, the lack of progress on the ground and the violation by Israel of major elements of the Geneva Convention are prompting us to hold back on official cooperation,” Di Rupo said.

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Joel Rubinfeld, a former leader of Belgian Jewry and president of the Belgian League Against Anti-Semitism, said the move was discriminatory in light of Belgium’s trade relations with nation accused of major human rights violations, including Iran and China.

It is also “absurd,” he wrote, and “will hurt Wallonia and Brussels far more than it will Israel, the only democracy in the Middle East and which has more Nasdaq-listed firms than in the entire European Union put together.”