Dutch intel probed right-wing Geert Wilders over Israel ties – report
Wilders, the firebrand leader of the Dutch far-right Party for Freedom (PVV), was investigated by the country’s General Intelligence and Security Service (AIVD) between 2009 and 2010 over his “ties to Israel and their possible influence on his loyalty,” according to De Volkskrant newspaper, which conducted interviews with 37 public officials and former intelligence officers.
An investigation into an opposition leader is an exceptional case in the Netherlands, the newspaper noted, citing several former intelligence officers who said such inquiries are considered an “absolute no-go” due to political sensitivity.
Wilders was an MP at the time the AIVD probe was carried out, with his party supporting the center-right coalition government led by then Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende, enabling it to remain in power.
The intelligence agency sanctioned the operation, citing concerns about “the possibility that Wilders is influenced by Israeli factors,” according to the newspaper.
Back in 2010, Wilders reportedly had close ties to influential people in Tel Aviv. At the time, he visited Major General Amos Gilad, former chief of the Israeli Defense Ministry’s intelligence division, and frequently met the Israeli ambassador in the Netherlands.
According to the De Volkskrant report, which cites sources from the Netherlands’ Jewish community, these contacts stalled as Wilders did not turn his agenda into policy.
The results of the AIVD investigation have never been disclosed. Both Gerard Bouman, who led the AIVD from 2007 to 2011, and Wilders himself declined to comment.
Wilders’ Israeli connections trace back to his youth, when he volunteered for a year at Moshav Tomer, a Jewish settlement in the occupied West Bank, according to the Times of Israel. He also repeatedly referred to Jews as role models for Europe and urged a complete seizure of the West Bank. At one stage, his anti-Muslim slogans made him a star among Dutch Jewish constituencies and beyond.
According to a recent poll by Maurice de Hond, Wilders’ PVV would have won 33 seats in the 150-seat lower chamber of the Dutch parliament if elections had been held on November 29. In that case, Wilders would have become the Netherlands’ next prime minister as chairman of the biggest parliamentary party.
The far-right party has 15 seats in the current parliament, having gained about 10 percent of the vote at the 2012 general election. The next election is scheduled to take place in March 2017, leaving many to believe Wilders will triumph amid growing frustration with the Netherlands’ center-right coalition.