Irish elections may bring more moderate tone toward Israel

February 28, 2011 04:36

Alan Shatter, Ireland’s only Jewish parliamentarian and courageous friend of Israel, was re-elected is likely to win a key post in new gov't.

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Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny.

Enda Kenny_311. (photo credit: REUTERS/Darren Staples)

There was cautious optimism in Jerusalem on Sunday that the dramatic victory in Irish elections Friday by the center-right Fine Gael Party could lead to a moderation of Ireland’s Mideast policies and a toning down of its strident criticism of Israel.

Riding on a wave of deep disillusion with the ruling Fianna Fail Party’s handling of the crisis that has devastated the Irish economy, the Fine Gael Party, headed by Enda Kenny, captured 75 seats of the 166-seat Dail, or Irish parliament, and is expected to govern with the Labor Party.

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Alan Shatter, Ireland’s only Jewish parliamentarian and a key figure in Fine Gael, was re-elected from his South Dublin district and is likely to win a key post in the new government, perhaps as justice minister.

Shatter is considered an articulate and courageous friend of Israel, who is not afraid to speak his mind on the issue in a parliament that has been extremely critical of Israel.

Ireland is currently considered one of the least friendly countries toward Israel in the EU, alongside Sweden, Belgium and Portugal.

The assessments in Jerusalem are that the defeat of the Fianna Fail Party, which has dominated Irish politics since independence 90 years ago, could lead to a more moderate policy on Israel than in the past, and a better understating of Israel’s security concerns.

Kenny, who will likely now serve as prime minister, visited Israel and Gaza in April 2009, shortly after Operation Cast Lead. According to the assessments in Jerusalem, a government he heads will likely be a bit more balanced and less one-sidedly pro-Palestinian in its outlook than that of his predecessor, Brian Cowen.

However, the change in Ireland’s Mideast orientation was not expected to be overly dramatic, and the country was not expected– as Greece did recently – to go from being one of Israel’s harshest critics inside the EU, to being one of its close friends.

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