Foto: Ammar Awad / Reuters
[This English translation was published on 25 March 2009]
By Erik Hagen
When the British Embassy in Tel Aviv was looking for new premises and received an offer from the investment company Africa-Israel Investments Ltd, the ambassador refused. The reason: the company is constructing settlements on the West Bank.
Norwatch is able to reveal that the Norwegian Government Pension Fund has invested Norwegian pension money in the controversial company. The investment was made some time in the course of 2008 and involves NOK 5.51 million (638.000 euros).
Africa-Israel Investments Ltd. and its subsidiary Danya Cebus are participating in three construction projects on the West Bank. Africa-Israel Investments is controlled by Lev Leviev, one of Israel’s most influential people, who has become enormously wealthy cutting diamonds.
The company participates in, among other things, the construction of the settlement Ma’aleh Adumim (see photo above).
The settlement is contrary to international law and places the peace process at a deadlock. Norwegian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Jonas Gahr Støre, has said that a two-state solution in the Middle East may become much more difficult if Israel does not remove road blocks and stop the development of its settlements.
The construction projects have nevertheless developed into a huge industry. A report from the Israeli Peace Now movement earlier in March shows that the Israeli government plans to build more than 73,000 new dwellings on occupied territory but that the number probably is much higher.
The British Refused
In March the British Embassy in Tel Aviv stopped negotiations with regard to leasing a floor in a building owned by Africa-Israel Investments, precisely because of the company’s role on the West Bank.
The Embassy had planned to move into a floor in the fashionable skyscraper Kirya Tower in Tel Aviv, the fifth highest building in Israel. According to the British press, the rent was to be about US$162,000 a year. When the British relocation plans became known about a year ago, British pro-Palestine groups protested. There were debates in the British Parliament, and the then minister of state at the Foreign Office had to explain why they wanted to move to the controversial building.
After having been in a dialogue with Africa-Israel about the company’s activities in the settlements, the British ambassador in Israel decided to terminate negotiations at the beginning of March this year. See also coverage of the case in Haaretz.