MAAN NEWS AGENCY
French company to withdraw from Jerusalem rail project
Date: 08 / 06 / 2009 Time: 18:46
Bethlehem – Ma’an – Under pressure from pro-Palestine campaigners, a French company is poised to withdraw from the controversial Jerusalem Light Rail project that links the city center to illegal West Bank settlements.
The company Veolia, which was supposed to operate the transport system after its construction, is now abandoning the project and also seeking to sell its 5% stake in Citypass light rail consortium, according to the Israeli newspaper Haaretz.
The growing movement for Boycott Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) against Israel hailed the move as a victory.
“This great victory came as a result of years of hard, principled, meticulous and persistent work by French solidarity groups,” wrote Omar Barghouti of the BDS National Committee on the BDS movement website, also noting the contributions of groups across Europe.
Campaigners in Europe targeted Veolia and another company, Alstom, over their involvement in the project, ultimately causing Veolia to lose 7 billion US dollars in contracts in Bordeaux, Stockholm, and West Midlands, England. Dutch activists also convinced a Dutch bank to divest from Veolia.
The loss of the contract to operate the Stokholm metro, under pressure from peace groups and organizations linked to the Church of Sweden, cost the company 4.5 billion dollars.
According to Haaretz, Veolia may try to sell its stake in the Citypass consortium to Israel’s Egged or Dan bus companies, a deal which could face scrutiny from the country’s antitrust authorities.
The newspaper also reports that Citypass, the Municipality of Jerusalem, and various Israeli ministries have been locked in a dispute over who is to blame for months of delays in the light rail project.
Of the eight proposed lines in the Light Rail system, only one is actually under construction. The line connects downtown West Jerusalem with the settlement of Pisgat Ze’ev, which is built on Palestinian land in East Jerusalem.