Pressure on Israeli banks from investors intensifies
By Madison Marriage
ABP, the world’s third-largest pension fund, and two major European investors are reviewing their holdings in Israeli banks over concerns that the banks finance illegal Israeli settlements in occupied Palestinian territories.
As well as ABP, the Dutch pension fund with €300bn of assets under management, the investors include Nordea Investment Management, a €130bn Scandinavian fund house, and DNB Asset Management, a €60bn Norwegian fund group. All three want more information from the Israeli banks about their involvement in financing the settlements, which contravene international human rights laws established under the Fourth Geneva Convention in
A spokesperson for KLP, one of the biggest Norwegian pension funds,with €45bn of assets, also confirmed that “dilemmas linked to financing [of Israeli settlements] will be discussed at KLP”.
Palestinians see the settlements as an obstacle to achieving a viable state, and most countries consider the settlements illegal.
The reviews come after PGGM, the second-largest Dutch pension fund, two weeks ago became the first big investor to dump its holdings in five large Israeli banks : Bank Hapoalim, Bank Leumi, First International Bank of Israel, Israel Discount Bank and Mizrahi Tefahot.
PGGM said in a statement: “Given the day-to-day reality and domestic legal framework they operate in, the banks have limited to no possibilities to end their involvement in the financing of settlements in the occupied Palestinian
“Therefore it was concluded that engagement as a tool to bring about change will not be effective in this case.”
ABP has held talks with three of the banks over the settlement issue for a year. The pension fund might exclude the stocks “as a last resort” if the banks fail to act on ABP’s complaints, a spokesperson said.
Nordea Investment Management has sent letters to Leumi and Mizrahi “regarding concerns about the violation of international norms”, Sasja Beslik, Nordea’s head of responsible investment, told FTfm.
The Scandinavian fund house plans to meet these banks in March before taking a decision on whether to withdraw their investment at a committee meeting in May.
DNB Asset Management’s external consultancy GES is engaging with several Israeli banks on this issue.
Israel Discount Bank declined to comment. Banks Hapoalim and Leumi did not respond to requests for comment.
Mr Beslik expects other large investors to start looking at their investment policies on the Israeli settlement matter shortly.
He said: “Very few asset managers have a policy [on this issue],
which means that the banks are not under pressure regarding these
violations. The pressure on asset owners to live up to their values when it comes to these issues will increase, I am certain about that.”
ING Investment Management, the fund arm of Dutch Bank ING, said that it has requested research on the settlement issue from an independent third party.