Knesset cancels delegation to Ireland over anti-settlement boycott bill

Edelstein: “Knesset won’t waste time on Ireland that obsessively looks for ways to hurt Israel.”

A vineyard in the West Bank, July 4 2018 (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
A vineyard in the West Bank, July 4 2018
Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein canceled a Knesset delegation’s trip to Dublin on Monday, in light of an Irish bill criminalizing business with Israelis over the Green Line.

“It’s not surprising that Ireland is once again looking to hurt and boycott Israel,” Edelstein said. “The law to boycott Judea and Samaria has serious repercussions for relations between the countries. Therefore, I instructed to cancel the MK delegation to Ireland that was meant to take place in March.”

Edelstein said many countries seek to visit the Knesset and invite Israeli lawmakers to their legislatures.

“We are happy to take the time to go to a country that wants to cooperate with all of Israel and not just parts of it, instead of wasting our time in a country that obsessively looks for ways to hurt us,” he stated.

If the Irish bill becomes law, it could fine merchants in Ireland that sell products from the West Bank, Golan Heights or east Jerusalem for up to 250,000 euros, or sentence them to up to five years in jail.

Edelstein’s decision came after the Foreign Ministry rebuked Irish Ambassador to Israel Alison Kelly over the bill’s advancement in Ireland’s lower house of parliament last week. The ministry called the legislation “hypocritical and antisemitic,” calling on Ireland to focus on “dark dictatorships and terrorist movements, instead of Israel, the only democracy in the Middle East.”

Kelly told the Foreign Ministry that her government opposes the bill. The legislation moved forward in defiance of Ireland’s minority government, which said it must follow EU trade policies, as a member of its single market.

Hatnua MK Eyal Ben-Reuven, who was supposed to be part of the Knesset delegation in March, expressed opposition to Edelstein’s decision.

“I’m very sorry to hear the Knesset speaker’s decision to cancel the visit,” Ben-Reuven told Maariv. “Of course I oppose any boycotts against Israel, but the right way is to explain Israel’s stance to the senior decision-makers in Ireland.”

“The boycott approach certainly does not help. It hurts Israel’s international relations,” he added.

According to The Irish Times, Ireland’s imports from the settlements are estimated at less than $1.7 million.

In 2017, Israel exported some $68 million worth of goods to Ireland, and imported $868 million.

It is not clear what retaliatory action Israel would take if the bill passes, but one idea that has been discussed in the past is closing the embassy in Dublin, and using that money to open an embassy in a country more favorably inclined toward Israel. Such a move could have chilling effect on Israeli-Irish trade.
Herb Keinon and Tovah Lazaroff contributed to this report.