Rutte, Palestine and NATO: Nepotism by the global elite used to further their own power

A story of how anti-democratic nepotism by the global elite is used by unscrupulous (neo-)liberals to further their own means of power and enable a genocide on Palestinians

On January 21, leaks to the NRC newspaper by civil servants showed how Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte’s Ministry of General Affairs asked the legal division of the Foreign Affairs Ministry what they could say “to make it seem like Israel isn’t doing war crimes”. The now world-famous letter of civil servants of the Ministry of General Affairs was leaked to the NRC newspaper by their colleagues at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Twenty anonymous civil servants and diplomats wrote to the Ministry stating their frustrations with the PM and his Ministry because “they” shifted the Middle-East policy towards the Ministry of General Affairs in an unacceptable manner, to the extent that information which might have had negative implications for Israel was swept under the rug. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has denied that there has been any advice given to the Ministry of General Affairs and called the accusations in the letter “unfounded” but also “totally inappropriate.

This wasn’t the first unrest amongst the Dutch civil servants. In 2022, the prominent diplomat Berber van der Woude resigned, providing a scathing critique of Dutch policy by exposing the internal issues of structural racism towards Palestinians and many other Global South nations in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. In late 2023, one of the other examples of resistance from the inside of the Ministry and government include 30 employees who participated in sit-ins protesting the Dutch policy on Palestine and Israel. Yet another example was when 150 civil servants protested for a ceasefire and against the Dutch complicity to genocide on December 21; much to the dismay of the cabinet, the right-wing parties in the Parliament. Some “concerned” experts on the Council of State called on the minister to purge the Ministry of Defence by firing the civil servants under the government wide codes of conduct for civil servants and the 2017 civil servants law.

Rutte’s shiny new NATO job

Many questions were raised about the Dutch-Israeli relationship and the Netherlands‘ conduct within the latest flare-up of the Israel-Palestine conflict; especially, when it became clear that Rutte wants the job of Jens Stoltenberg as Secretary-General of the NATO-alliance.

A few prominent holdouts within the EU, like Romania, which has launched its own bid in the form of their president Iohannis Klaus, and Hungary, seem to be keeping Rutte from securing the job. The White House, Germany and the UK openly support Rutte because they fear Eastern European countries might be too hawkish or “trigger happy”. They might support Iohannes Klaus because they are more troubled by Russia’s increased aggression. Rutte, on the other hand, was cutting expenses for a large part of his reign over the Netherlands and did little to help the country reach the NATO-norm of 2 percent of GDP on arms.

For those curious about possible other candidates, they are Estonian prime minister Kaja Kallas and Latvian foreign minister Krisjanis Karins.

A possible constitutional and succession crisis

If Rutte is chosen, NATO (mainly the US) might demand him to start as early as March, which would put his new task in conflict with his current job as the Dutch PM until a new government is formed. Officially, the parliament fired him many months ago but, the Dutch Constitution mandates a PM and a Cabinet should be on their posts at all times. This usually means they stay on until a replacement is formed and ready. In the Netherlands it’s called a demissionary cabinet. The forming of a new government is something that could still be months away due to political manoeuvring by the four parties – the PVV of Geert Wilders, the Farmers, Civilian Movement or BBB, NSC (New Social Contract) and Rutte’s own VVD – who had decided they wanted to try and form a government after the elections in November last year. This maneuvering might even lead to new elections, since negotiations seem to have blown up after NSC walked away.

Rutte’s possible departure might cause a constitutional crisis as there are no laws for this situation, neither in the Dutch Constitution nor other laws. Dutch Parliamentary conventions leave the Netherlands and the Parliament with several options, none of which are particularly great and all come with serious questions of integrity, party politics and geopolitics.

The first, and the most conventional option, would be that the VVD appoints a new temporary PM. It would probably be the current party leader Dilan Yesilgöz; incidentally, she would be the first female PM in the Netherlands. However, there’s a catch: she’s the party’s main negotiator in the Cabinet formation and the other parties are unlikely to accept that dual role.

The second option would be Rutte staying on as PM. However, the experts consider it unwise because there are obvious conflicts of interest. He would also need permission from both Parliament and NATO, and they are  unlikely to grant it.

The third option would be Rutte asking NATO to wait until Stoltenberg has served out his term in October this year allowing a new Cabinet to be formed in the Netherlands. The problem is that NATO is unlikely to wait since there are other candidates available to step in earlier.

A fourth option is that the vice PM is named PM, in other words a convention that currently operates when Rutte isn’t there. The catch here is that, when the current government was formed, the VVD as the largest party was handed the prime minister role and they are unlikely to renounce that claim. The vice prime ministers currently come from two parties who have both been decimated at the latest elections; D66 (Democrats ‘66, liberal-democrats) and CDA (Christian-Democrats). Both wouldn’t have much of a mandate in governing and will make passing laws very difficult.

The parliament and cabinet will have to find a solution soon (something they haven’t proven to be very good in over the last few years) because the NATO-alliance will meet on April 4 in Brussels to name Stoltenberg’s successor and this could destabilise both the Netherlands and NATO.

Dutch government and Israel

The Netherlands has consistently demonstrated both in the present and the past, that it will side with Israel regardless of the circumstances. On October 23, Rutte went to Israel and the Middle East immediately after the situation started to emerge that Israel was going on a racist and revenge-fuelled genocide in Gaza and the West Bank. Rutte, like all Western ‘leaders’, emphasised Israel’s suffering and spent most of his time talking to ‘his good friend Bibi’ before spending a very short time with Mahmoud Abbas and some more time with president and dictator Abdel Fattah El-Sisi of Egypt

Why is the Dutch government so cosy with Israel?

The Dutch historian Jan Dirk Snel describes in this article from 2008 how the Dutch government came to be very Zionist and how this was accelerated in the post WW2 era. This isn’t just because, as both the political left and right in the Netherlands like to joke, we always want to be “the teacher’s pet” in the NATO alliance. We have more reasons for our strong ties to the Israeli State project.

Another centuries old tradition of the Dutch State is its links with the global arms trade; including production and smuggling. An example to this is the 315 million euros worth of F35 landing gear maintenance service provided by a Dutch company who is paid by the Dutch State; in other words Dutch tax payers money is used for committing war crimes. These landing gears are coming from a US weaponry warehouse in the Netherlands.

The Dutch government’s legal woes and wins for Human Rights

The Dutch Appeal Court ordered the Dutch government to stop the policy of supplying the F35 parts to Israel after three NGOs (Oxfam, PAX and The Rights Forum) sued them for their possible contribution to war crimes in Palestine. The Court stated that the Dutch State should stop this policy on the grounds that it is “putting the Dutch State at serious risk to be an accomplice to war crimes”. The Dutch State stated in their defence that “judges or the judiciary in general shouldn’t take the seat of policy makers and dictate what our international relationships look like”. This incredibly haughty response was outright rejected by the Court. The Dutch government immediately appealed again (cassation) and landed in the Dutch High Court. However, the High Court in the Netherlands only looks at the letter of the law, particularly the Dutch Constitution, and to cases constituting international precedent (previous rulings on similar cases). This is not very promising for the Dutch government considering the Dutch laws are based on treaties like the Geneva Convention and all the Human Rights that the Dutch government has signed over many years including those of the United Nations and the European Union.

Dutch colonialism, Indonesia and Israel

In the period of PvdA-rule after WWII until its neoliberal turn in the 1990’s and early 2000s the Dutch government fully believed the arguments that Israel was the “flower that made the desert bloom” and “a land without people, for a people without a land” myths. It also supported the dream of Kibbutzim-style socialism because the PvdA was led by socialists who believed Israel was the ideal place “untainted by capitalism” to create a socialist state. Another factor was reparations for European Jews after the Holocaust. Contrary to all these facts was that our country didn’t recognise the State of Israel until a decolonial and independence movement came up in Indonesia.

The Netherlands had, and has, a lot in common with Israel going back to even before Israel’s inception. The most important and clearest example is Indonesia and the Dutch colonial rule after WW2 which lasted between 1945 and 1950 and the so-called “Politionele Acties” (“Policing Actions”) which were nothing but collective punishment to bring the Indonesian people to their knees. However, this failed and the Indonesians fought off the Dutch army through an incredibly violent guerilla war. This eroded international support for the Dutch State until it lost the support of both, a large part of the Dutch people who refused the conscription, and the US which threatened to end its Marshall-Plan support for the Dutch reconstruction. Incidentally , the Dutch were the biggest recipienta of Marshall Plan support in the world. Negotiations related to the partial continuation of colonial rule in the region lasted until West Papua-New Guinea was taken by Indonesia on May 1, 1963 by force.

This threw a wrench in the Dutch WW2 recovery plans because both the Dutch society and its international allies were banking on the Netherlands to rebuild its society through Indonesia’s and other colonies’ (mainly Suriname) resources.

Indonesia was vital for the Netherlands due to its massive amount of resources and the size of its population, used and abused for cheap labour, even after slavery was abolished. This initially happened with the so-called koelies (1860-1880), a name given to Indonesian and other South-East Asian workers, sent across the Dutch Commonwealth (as did Britain and other European countries) to undercut wages under exploitative contracts and conditions and supplement workforce which severely diminished after WW2. This situation lasted until the abolition of this system when Russia and Japan intervened given that it was slavery. Abuse of workers in the Asian colonies persisted  but was more hidden and people weren’t trafficked between colonies anymore until those countries gained their independence in the coming decades  around the 1960s and 70s.

The duplicity of the Dutch government

On October 24, Rutte showed up in the Parliament during a debate on the Israel-Gaza/Palestine war where he faced tough questions by many parliamentarians over his actions and comments on the war.

This was the day after he met with both family members of Zionist victims of the October 7 Hamas attacks on Zionist settlements and family members of Palestinians killed that same day. He did this in Israel where he said: “I have a lot of sympathy with victims on both sides but, within the Geneva Convention’s Rules of Engagement Israel has the fullest right to defend itself from the terrorism of Hamas. Multiple truths can be true at the same time. On the one hand, Israel cannot be safe if it can’t retaliate against Hamas but, on the other hand, this can’t come at the cost of the innocent people of Palestine. Both sides have a right to their own States that provide independence, safety and offer future prospects.”

These statements ignore the reality on the ground considering the great number of victims made by Israel in the Occupied Territories.

Rutte’s loyalty to the Israeli State

Rutte has a very problematic history with the Zionist State of Israel has supported Israel in everything it did, in keeping with the history of both his party and the wider Dutch State

However, Rutte’s actions since October 7 have piqued many people’s interest. Since his very first cabinet in 2010, he has developed himself as one of the main negotiators of the EU when they need to engage in foreign policy – now even more so with a very unstable Middle East and much of public opinion turning against Israel quickly, especially amongst people under 40 years  across the world.

What would a break with status quo politics on the Israel-Gaza/Palestine genocide by DiEM25 look like?

To be very short on this question, as stipulated in our policy paper on Israel-Palestine, our starting point is based on the ODS (One Democratic State) principle, where all people in historic Palestine are united in one secular nation with full democratic rights for all. This is mainly because the years-long political status quo on a Two-State Solution is dead since Israel started ignoring 1967 borders after they were a part of the 1949 Armistice.

The Single Democratic Secular State we, as DiEM25 support and envisage, has to be: 

The homeland of both Jewish people and Palestinian people. A country to which all Jews and all Palestinians (and their descendants) evicted during and after 1948 during the first Nakba (the second one is ongoing across the Occupied Territories) will have an equal right to return based on a Democratic, Non-Discriminatory Constitution written jointly by a Constitutional Assembly of Jews and Palestinians, supported by the international community, through the UN and with resources committed for the purpose by the EU, the US, Russia and China. A force for good, and peace, in the broader Middle East, catalysing the end of various regional conflicts, delegitimising oppressive regimes and supporting greater economic, social and cultural cooperation in the region.

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