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May 14, 2019 10:04 am

Israeli Companies Threaten Lawsuit Against French Company After It Pulls Out of Planned Bid on Jerusalem Light Rail Project

avatar by Benjamin Kerstein

A Jerusalem light rail train. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

Two Israeli companies are threatening a major lawsuit against a French company that chose not to bid on a tender to expand the Jerusalem light rail system.

According to Hebrew news site Mako, the transportation firm Alstom formally announced on Friday that it would withdraw its planned bid. Israeli companies Dan and Electra, which were involved in the prospective deal, claimed that the decision stemmed from concerns that the light rail project would violate human rights.

On Monday, the two Israeli firms sent a letter to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon, saying they had “received with shock the official position of Alstom regarding its participation in the tender, which in effect prevents Dan and Electra from submitting a bid for the tender.”

“This position is based entirely on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and its starting point is that the tender ostensibly harms or is liable to harm human rights,” the letter stated.

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It added that Alstom was also concerned that the project could be “against French law.”

Dan and Electra stated that accepting Alstom’s decision was “reconciliation with elements hostile to the very existence of the State of Israel and its capital Jerusalem.”

In a separate letter sent to Alstom, the two companies charged breach of trust and violation of previous commitments, calling Alstom’s behavior “unfair and two-faced.”

The Israeli companies claimed they were directly harmed by Alstom’s withdrawal, and would now be unable to fulfill their own commitments to the project, costing them millions of euros. Dan and Electra pledged to seek legal and financial redress from Alstom.

The project in question is intended to construct two new light rail lines in Jerusalem, one reaching through the north of the city to the Neve Yaakov neighborhood, and the other through the south of the city, including the Hebrew University campus and the Malcha and Gilo neighborhoods.

Though widely regarded as a success, the light rail has been somewhat controversial because it services areas over the “Green Line,” which demarcated the Israel-Jordan border when the city was divided from 1948 to 1967. Israel annexed these areas following the war and reunified the city, but this has not been recognized by the international community.

The Algemeiner contacted Alstom and was told by a spokesperson, “Alstom does not comment on tendering activities.”

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