The UKTI has updated its “Doing business guide in Israel”. Until Friday 15 November 2013, the British government had been promoting investment in the Jordan valley and its illegal Israeli settlements, contradicting its policy position of viewing settlements as a violation of international law. It is very welcome that the government has changed its advice but alarming that it had been going on for so long.
This is the relevant text as shown on the UKTI website in the past: (At the moment it can still be seen by clicking here)
Financial Assistance Investment incentives are outlined in the Law for the Encouragement of Capital Investment which was recently revised. These incentive programs can be divided into 2 main types:
1) The Grants program – administered by the Israel Investment Centre (IIC), a department of the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Labour
2) The Automatic Tax Benefits program– administered by the Tax Authorities. To qualify, investment projects must meet certain criteria including: international competitiveness, minimal designated investment, high added value and registration of the company in Israel. Once these criteria are met the enterprise gains Approved Enterprise status from the IIC if it chooses the grants program and Beneficiary Enterprise status by the Tax Authority if it chooses one of the tax benefits programs. It is then eligible for incentives, such as grants of up to 24% of tangible fixed assets (grants program only) and/or reduced tax rates, tax exemptions and other tax related benefits.
The government grants scheme is affected in part by the location of the company’s activities. Several regions in Israel have been declared National Priority Regions:
Priority Area A includes:
Jordan Valley (emphasis added)
Jerusalem (for hi-tech enterprises)
Priority Area B includes:
For details see: http://www.moital.gov.il
It is clear that the British government had been promoting trade in Israel’s national priority areas especially the Jordan Valley. (A total of 91 settlements are currently listed as National Priority Areas by Israel)
It is welcome that the UKTI has changed its advice – see the new page here
1) The government should not have been promoting trade in settlements which are a grave breach of the Fourth Geneva Convention.
2) British businesses have been encouraged to invest in these settlements and in so doing may have found themselves party to violations of international law.
I have just returned from a Caabu/LFPME Parliamentary delegation with Shadow Secretary of State, Chuka Umunna. This included a visit to the Jordan Valley facilitated by Oxfam which has a first-class programme there helping Palestinian farmers. The delegation saw some of 37 settlements that take up the vast majority of the land and deny both land and water to Palestinians. Area C, that includes the settlements takes up around 87% of the land in the Jordan Valley. This area is effectively off limits to Palestinians. We met farmers struggling to make a living as settlements encroach on their land. Other Palestinians are facing demolitions of their homes and structures.
Chris Doyle, http://caabu.org/news/blog/ukti-stops-promoting-trade-settlements-finally 15th November 2013