MEMBERS OF Students for a Just Palestine protest a scheduled lecture by Ambassador to Ireland Ze’ev Boker at Trinity College in Dublin, Ireland.
(photo credit: FACEBOOK)
The passage of a bill in the Irish parliament next week prohibiting “the import and sales of goods, services and natural resources” from the settlements would be “catastrophic” for Israeli-Irish ties, senior sources in Jerusalem said on Wednesday.
Israel is working quietly and behind the scenes to try to thwart the passage of the legislation, The Jerusalem Post has learned. The bill will go to the Irish senate next week.
While passage of the measure would not lead to a rupture in Irish-Israel ties, it could strengthen voices inside the Foreign Ministry that always suggest Dublin whenever lists are drawn up of consulates and embassies abroad that should be closed because of budgetary constraints.
Israel’s embassy issued a statement saying that the bill that would make it a crime punishable by prison time to import anything from the settlements, which also includes east Jerusalem, is “immoral.”
The embassy is “concerned by bills that further the divisions between Israel and the Palestinians,” the statement read. “Legislation that promotes a boycott of any kind should be rejected, as it does nothing to achieve peace but, rather, empowers the Hamas terrorists as well as those Palestinians who refuse to come to the negotiating table.”
According to the statement, “Closing doors will not in any way facilitate Ireland’s role and influence. There are direct parties to the conflict. Boycotting one of them will not do any good and is immoral.”
The main opposition party Fianna Fáil decided Tuesday evening to back the bill, giving it a big boost and legitimacy from an established party. The bill received enthusiastic backing last week at a Dublin concert by the fanatically anti-Israel former Pink Floyd leader Roger Waters.
Fianna Fáil’s Niall Collins, the party’s spokesman on foreign affairs, told the online Irish newspaper TheJournali.ie that he and a colleague “traveled to Israel and Palestine to see at first hand the reality of what is happening on the ground,” before taking a view on the bill.
“Having done that and having met with a wide range of agencies and groups, it is my view that Ireland passing the Occupied Territories Bill has the potential to send a strong message that the issue of illegal settlements is being taken seriously and needs to be addressed,” he said.
Ireland’s Foreign Minister Simon Coveney was in Israel last month. Earlier this year he expressed reservations about the bill, saying that while it would send “an important signal to the Palestinian people,” it would not enhance Ireland’s international position.
On Tuesday he tweeted opposition to the bill, writing: “The Irish government has always condemned construction of illegal settlements. But this bill asks Irish government to do something it is not legally empowered to do – trade is an EU competence, not an Irish one. FF [Fiana Fáil] knows this – so this move is both opportunist and irresponsible.”
The bill’s sponsor, an Independent senator named Frances Black, tweeted in response that she had two legal opinions disputing Coveney’s claim. “I believe if we wait for EU leadership, we could be waiting forever,” she wrote.
In a tweet on Sunday, Black thanked Waters for his support, and wrote that it was “time for Ireland to take the lead, stand up for justice in #Palestine & end trade in #SettlementGoods.”
Discussion in the Irish senate on the bill was postponed in January following government opposition and a strongly negative reaction in Jerusalem.
The current move also comes amid calls in Ireland to boycott next year’s Eurovision Song Contest, which is scheduled to be held in Israel. Though Fianna Fáil will support the bill against the settlements, it is unlikely to support a Eurovision boycott, its leader, Micheál Martin, was quoted as saying.
Martin, asked about the Eurovision boycott in TheJournal.ie, said he has “never been a boycott fan,” and that “I think the Eurovision is neither here nor there, to be frank, in terms of the profound crisis that Palestine represents, particularly Gaza.”
Ireland, along with Sweden and Spain, are considered among the fiercest critics of, and most unsympathetic countries toward, Israel inside the EU.
Sources in Jerusalem dismissed the notion that this move could lead to a snowball effect in other European parliaments, saying that the influence of Ireland – with only 4.8 million people – is limited, and the country is not a “central player” inside the EU.
In 2015, the EU issued guidelines for labeling products from the settlements, but stopped short of calling for a boycott.