United Nations publishes list of companies with ties to Israeli settlements

UN releases long-delayed list of companies operating in Israel's West Bank settlements

Saudi Arabia has long championed the Arab Peace Initiative, its 2002 proposal that offered normalized relations with Israel in exchange for the establishment of a Palestinian state on the 1967 lines and a "just" solution to the Palestinian refugee issue.

The UN has published a list of companies with business ties to Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories, including the US-based TripAdvisor and Airbnb and the British truck and digger maker JCB.

Travel companies, in particular, had been accused of financially benefiting from the Israeli occupation, by listing rooms in settler-owned houses and guesthouses in the Palestinian territories.

Travel companies Airbnb, Expedia, TripAdvisor, Booking.com and Opodo were among the names of USA companies.

"I am conscious this issue has been, and will continue to be, highly contentious", United Nations rights chief Michelle Bachelet said.

The companies engaged in activities that "raised particular human rights concerns", according to the United Nations report released Wednesday, which was released after years of delays attributed to extensive lobbying by the USA and Israel.

"We will fight this declaration with all our might", said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

"Whoever boycotts us will be boycotted", a statement from his office quoted him as saying.

The US retail giant said on Friday that the free shipping promotion was also available to Palestinians if they amended their address and selected Israel as their country.

Foreign Minister Israel Katz labelled the move "a shameful surrender to pressure from countries and organisations who want to harm Israel".

The database was scheduled to be released three years ago, but has repeatedly been delayed.

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"These companies have done nothing wrong and many are involved in providing goods and services to Palestinians pursuant to the Oslo Accords".

It listed 112 companies which it said it had "reasonable grounds" to conclude had been involved in these activities.

The long-awaited report included 94 companies based in Israel and 18 global companies, which it said are complicit in the violation of Palestinians' human rights.

"The long-awaited release of the United Nations settlement business database should put all companies on notice: To do business with illegal settlements is to aid in the commission of war crimes", said Bruno Stagno, HRW's deputy executive director for advocacy.

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights has acknowledged the list's publication would be controversial.

The companies were not informed prior to the publication of the list.

Wednesday's report meanwhile stressed that companies were not doomed to remain on the database forever.

The U.S. -based Human Rights Watch said the settlements undermine the livelihoods and economy of Palestinians and business activities in those areas contribute to their deepening entrenchment.

Human rights advocates, on the other hand, welcomed the report as a "major breakthrough" to hold business accountable.

Breaking with past USA administrations, the Trump plan envisions the creation of a Palestinian state in about 70 percent of the West Bank, a handful of neighborhoods in East Jerusalem, most of Gaza and some areas of southern Israel - if the Palestinians recognize Israel as a Jewish state, disarm Hamas and other terror groups in the coastal enclave, and fulfill other conditions.

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