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George Mitchell praises SodaStream settlement factory as beacon of cooperation

Israel/PalestineMiddle EastUS Politics
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Mishor Adumim Industrial Zone, home to Israel's SodaStream factory in the West Bank settlement of Ma'ale Adumim. (Photo: Emil Salman/Haaretz)

Mishor Adumim Industrial Zone, home to Israel’s SodaStream factory in the West Bank settlement of Ma’ale Adumim. (Photo: Emil Salman/Haaretz)

Former Special Envoy for the Middle East Peace George Mitchell has praised a settlement industrial zone as a “glimmers of Israeli-Palestinian cooperation.” Last week Mitchell cited a SodaStream factory in the Mishor Adumim area of Ma’ale Adumim near Jerusalem, which he visited on a previous delegation, as a shining example of joint Israeli-Palestinian economic projects. Mitchell seems to have missed that the factory, which is not a cooperative project, has been called the “wild West Bank for labor rights” and stands in direct contradiction to U.S. policy on settlements and international law.

From the Times of Israel:

Mitchell said that he has seen ‘some glimmers of Israel-Palestinian cooperation. For example, I visited Sodastream,’ the Israel-based manufacturer of home carbonated drink machines. Sodastream is located in Ma’aleh Adumim, and employs some 500 Palestinians, Mitchell said.

Mitchell’s confusion resides in conflating employing Palestinians at a rate below the Israeli minimum wage—a perk of doing business in the occupied West Bank—with partnering with Palestinians. Indeed while there are hundreds of Palestinian laborers with permits to work in these industrial zones, these factories are black sites for environmental and labor restrictions.

Though, there are actual cooperative projects even factories between Israel and the Palestinian Authority (PA) in the West Bank that Mitchell could have looked to. In fact the Hebron Industrial Zone is an Oslo mandated manufacturing area intended to elevate the Palestinian economy. It is one of three such zones created by the aptly titled “Joint Economic Committee,” [PDF] whereas Ma’ale Adumim’s industrial zone was created by unilateral Israeli interest. Moreover USAID provided financial assistance to the Hebron factories, installing a wastewater management system. And so, it is even more the odd that Mitchell sees the “glimmers” of peace from literal competitors of where the U.S. has chosen to invest.

Here’s USAID describing the cooperation in Hebron:

The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) convened a meeting with stakeholders to identify a solution to this problem. This consultative process with factory owners, local government, Palestinian Ministries, and Israeli officials led to the collective agreement on immediate actions required.

Even more peculiar, Ma’ale Adumim’s very existence, though legal under Israeli law, is in violation of the Paris Protocols of the Oslo Accords [see Article IX-PDF] and U.S. policy. The seemingly abandoned peace agreement between Israel and the PLO states that Israel cannot take actions to compromise the construction of Palestinian industrial zones, or damage the Palestinian environment. But because of lax regulations SodaStream is able to cause degradation to the environment and can get away with paying scant wages. Meanwhile Palestinian manufacturing areas are unable to compete with the Israeli maquiladora. The most striking example is the Jericho Industrial Park, which sits empty and unopened 20 years after Oslo because of its inability to attract foreign companies, all the while Ma’ale Adumim’s zone has expanded. Additionally Oslo forbids unilaterally altering official the status of the West Bank. Just as the PA’s statehood bid violated Oslo last fall, Israel’s claim of “Israeli state land” in Ma’ale Adumim dually violates the accords.

So while Mitchell applauds a settlement as “cooperative,” just mere kilometers away Oslo’s failed hopes sit underutilized and dormant. Much like the peace process itself.

(ht/Benjamin Doherty)

Allison Deger
About Allison Deger

Allison Deger is the Assistant Editor of Follow her on twitter at @allissoncd.

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11 Responses

  1. Walid
    November 5, 2013, 3:30 pm

    And the guy’s mother was an immigrant from Lebanon, now he’s a paid lobbyist that works the State Dept. Gives an idea what’s behind all the sugary comments about Soda Stream and all the good things the Israelis are doing to their underpaid Palestinian labourers. US Aid is part of the US State Dept, so it may explain what Mitchell is doing there.

    These clowns have to get up much much earlier to try to float a fast gimmick past Allison and Benjamin.

  2. ritzl
    November 5, 2013, 3:49 pm

    Yet another economically-depressing sliver of the Occupation and US subservience to it.

    It’s impossible to reconcile the exclusive and unprecedented “demand” that Palestine be economically viable as a prerequisite to acceptance as a “state,” with this intentional US-cheerled economic subterfuge of that same requisite viability.

    Keep it up, Allison/bangpound. Thanks for exposing yet another specific facet of the overwhelming umbrella hypocrisy that Palestine faces.

  3. Hostage
    November 5, 2013, 4:17 pm

    Just as the PA’s statehood bid violated Oslo last fall, Israel’s claim of “Israeli state land” in Ma’ale Adumim dually violates the accords.

    Sorry, but the idea that Palestine violated the lapsed Oslo Accords is merely a hasbara talking point.

    UN Security Council resolution 1515 (2003) adopted the Quartet Road Map, which obliged Israel to stop settlement construction and to remove the outposts. More importantly, it obliged the members of the Middle East Quartet, including the UN organization, to recognize the Palestinian State and promote its membership in the UN as a Phase II obligation pending a final, Phase III settlement. Judge Higgins cited that resolution and its legal effects in the Wall case:

    This is not difficult – from Security Council resolution 242 (1967) through to Security Council resolution 1515 (2003), the key underlying requirements have remained the same – that Israel is entitled to exist, to be recognized, and to security, and that the Palestinian people are entitled to their territory, to exercise self-determination, and to have their own State.

    link to

    So we are talking about an inalienable right and a legal entitlement that can’t be bargained away. The Court said:

    “Every State has the duty to promote, through joint and separate action, realization of the principle of equal rights and self-determination of peoples, in accordance with the provisions of the Charter, and to render assistance to the United Nations in carrying out the responsibilities entrusted to it by the Charter regarding the implementation of the principle . . .”

    Errol Mendes, a visiting scholar at the ICC, authored an advisory opinion on the legal effects of the Oslo Accords and Palestinian Statehood which pointed out that the Accords lapsed a long time ago:

    There is an element of irrationality for anyone to suggest that the Palestinian State can not even declare independence after the Oslo Accords expired on September 13, 2000 as it contained an obligation to refrain from doing anything to undermine the object and purpose of the Accords such as a unilateral declaration of independence. There is no international law authority supporting this position and if it was accurate, it would also call into question the legitimacy of Israel’s actions since the expiration of the Oslo Accords, given the illegal expansion of settlements in the West Bank.
    Moreover, the Palestinian Declaration had been pronounced long before the Oslo Accords and its permanence and legality has been recognized by over half the world’s states.

    link to

    The PLO had already declared the establishment of the State of Palestine in 1988, long before it ever signed the Oslo Accords. At the time, the General Assembly had acknowledged that the 1988 declaration of statehood was made “in line with General Assembly resolution 181 (II) and in exercise of the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people”.

    In any event, the Interim Agreement of 1995, which was the major post-Oslo agreement aimed at implementing the Oslo Declaration of Principles, specified that neither party shall be deemed “to have renounced or waived any of its existing rights, claims or positions” (Article 31-6). That certainly included the 1988 Declaration of the establishment of the State of Palestine.

  4. giladg
    November 5, 2013, 5:05 pm

    Enough with trying to manufacture a false narrative Allison. You feel that you have to find a company to galvanize the movement. It’s not SodaSteam. America loves SodaStream. It’s a great product and both Palestinians and Israeli’s benefit from it. Americans too. Accept that you have lost this one and move on already.

  5. Allison Deger
    Allison Deger
    November 5, 2013, 6:44 pm

    Americans, Israelis and Palestinians can love SodaStream all they want. They can all carbonate their coffee for all I care. The point is, it’s not a collaborative project. There are collaborative industrial zones in the WB, three in fact, but no settlement industrial zone is a collaborative project with USAID funding.

    • Inanna
      November 6, 2013, 2:55 am

      Thanks for your good work Allison – really enjoying your coverage.

    • Sumud
      November 6, 2013, 9:03 am

      There are collaborative industrial zones in the WB, three in fact, but no settlement industrial zone is a collaborative project with USAID funding.

      Hi Allison I have heard that products made in these WB ‘collaborative industrial zones’ are being labelled Made in Palestine despite the owners of the factories being Israeli and pocketing all the profit – so effectively they can circumvent BDS and pay Palestinians a pittance in wages.

      Any knowledge here?

  6. amigo
    November 5, 2013, 8:10 pm

    Mr Mitchell.the hero of Peace in Northern Ireland.

    Boy , what a disappointment this fake turned out to be.

    zionists purchased his morals and dignity.

  7. hophmi
    November 6, 2013, 10:40 am

    How many Jews are employed by the Hebron Industrial Zone?

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