16th Jun 2019

Irish senators build EU momentum on Palestine recognition

  • Jewish settler in Hebron, in the West Bank (Photo: Rosie Gabrielle)

Irish senators have adopted a non-binding motion on Palestine recognition, as the EU prepares to set out new red lines on Israel relations.

The motion, tabled by Averil Power from the opposition Fianna Fail party, passed without a vote on Wednesday (22 October) after winning cross-party support.

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It urges the Irish government “to formally recognise the state of Palestine and do everything it can to help secure a viable two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict".

Power told the Senate that in the past 20 years “while pretending to talk peace … [Israel’s] illegal settlements in the West Bank have trebled in size”.

She spoke of Israel's “apartheid regime” and its “deeply cynical, long game which is aimed at destroying any prospect of a Palestinian state”.

She also said Israeli actions are “facilitated by the passivity of the international community”.

For its part, the Israeli embassy in Dublin published a statement which criticised “theatrical but empty gestures that bring the Palestinian people no closer to genuine statehood”.

It said EU recognitions “will not end the conflict with Israel; they will set the stage for its continuation and escalation”.

The Irish development came the same day a Palestinian man drove his car into a crowd of people at a Jerusalem tram stop, killing a three-month old baby.

But the Irish motion is part of a new momentum in Europe.

Last week, British MPs also agreed a non-binding resolution urging the UK to recognise Palestine, while the new Swedish government has pledged to “shortly” take the formal step.

The Irish foreign minister, Charles Flanagan, at a meeting in Brussels on Monday, did not comment on the upcoming senate decision. But he criticised Israel for a “cycle of … destruction” in Gaza.

The Polish foreign minister, Grzegeorz Schetyna, whose country, along with seven other now-EU states, recognised Palestine in the 1980s, said ministers discussed the possibility of wider EU recognition “because such voices appeared from the Swedish side”.

Alon Liel, a former Israeli ambassador to South Africa, in an op-ed for EUobserver on Thursday, also urged other EU states to follow Sweden’s exmaple.

“Only such recognition will save us from our continued deterioration down the slippery slope of apartheid”, he said.

EU statements on this summer’s Israel-Gaza war criticised Israel’s killing of civilians while endorsing its right to self-defence.

Red lines

But Israeli settlement expansion in the West Bank is a thorn in the side of relations.

Israeli daily Haaretz on Wednesday published a leaked EU paper instructing the European Union's ambassador in Tel Aviv, Lars Faaborg-Andersen, to complain about settlements to Israeli authorities.

The “demarche”, to be delivered in the next few days, says the EU and Israel should launch a “regular and structured dialogue” on settlement issues.

It says the talks should be “informal and not public”, but warns that settlement expansion is “receiving wide media coverage in Europe” and is causing “increasing concern [in] … public opinion”.

It lists five Israeli projects which it says would “seriously jeopardise the possibility of a … viable Palestinian state”, while “increasing tensions on the ground” and which, in some cases, would amount to “a serious breach of international humanitarian law”.

The red lines are: construction in the Givat Hamatos and Har Homa zones in East Jerusalem; construction in the E1 area which connects Jerusalem to the West Bank; plans to forcefully relocate 12,000 Bedouin in the West Bank; and “challenges to the status quo on the Temple Mount/Haram al-Sharif” - a Jerusalem holy site for Jews and Muslims.

EU institutions last year imposed mini-sanctions by halting grants and loans to Israeli entities which operate on Palestinian land.

This year they blocked imports of settler milk and poultry products.

They are currently drawing up an EU code for retail labels on settler goods and a potential blacklist of violent Jewish settlers.

They are also in talks to review the EU-Israel association agreement, with a view to imposing further trade restrictions.


EU states should follow Sweden on Palestine

Israel's ex-ambassador to South Africa tells EUobserver his country is on "the slippery slope of apartheid" by destroying prospects for a Palestinian state.

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