APRIL 17, 2009
By DAVID GAUTHIER-VILLARS
PARIS -- Palestinian lobby groups that contest Israel's authority over East
Jerusalem have found they might be helped via an unexpected route: a French
The court decided to take up the case against French companies contracted by
Israel to build a tram line that runs deep into East Jerusalem from West
The tramway under construction in Jerusalem, February 2008. (Anne Paq/ActiveStills)
A Franco-Palestinian human-rights association challenged the companies'
participation, arguing that the line is designed to consolidate Israeli
control over Arab districts seized after the Six-Day War in 1967. Most
Israelis regard East Jerusalem as part of Israel's undivided capital.
The group, Association France-Palestine Solidarité, filed the complaint
.fr> SA and Veolia Environnement SA two years ago, arguing that the 8.3-mile
project violates international law because East Jerusalem isn't sovereign
Israeli territory. About half of the line is already built.
Veolia and Alstom quickly responded to the complaint by saying that the
Nanterre court had no jurisdiction over the case and that the association's
claims were groundless.
An official of the tribunal of Nanterre near Paris said the court ruled late
Wednesday that it does have jurisdiction in the case. The tribunal, however,
rejected on technical grounds a request by the Palestine Liberation
Organization to be a co-plaintiff, the court official said. PLO
representatives didn't return calls seeking comment.
Now the court will start looking into the substance of the complaint unless
Alstom and Veolia exercise their right to appeal within one month. The
companies both said they had been notified of the ruling, and an Alstom
spokesman added the company will take time to study the ruling before
deciding whether to appeal.
"The tribunal has backed our arguments; it's a positive step," said the
association's secretary-general, Sylviane de Wangen.
Alstom and Veolia -- along with Israeli partners -- are part of a consortium
that first won the Jerusalem tramway contract in 2002. Alstom is providing
cars and laying the track, while Veolia is due to operate the system for 30
years. The French and Israeli partners first struggled to secure financing
for the $1 billion tram route, which straddles the old East-West boundary
known as the "Green Line."
Write to David Gauthier-Villars at