Ireland consistently ponders the question of recognizing Palestine as a state, its Foreign Ministry said on Thursday, in response to media reports that Israel fears such a step could be imminent.“I am actively keeping under consideration, on a continuous basis, the question of whether recognition by Ireland in the near future of a state of Palestine might be a helpful step in relation to the Middle East peace process,” Foreign Minister Charles Flanagan said of his government’s long-held position.Ireland is part of the European Union, which holds that recognition of a Palestinian state should come only after a final-status agreement for the creation of two states is reached between Israel and the Palestinians.Seven of its member states that had belonged to the former Soviet bloc recognized Palestine as a state in 1988, long before joining the EU. In 2014, Sweden became the first country which – as a member of the EU – recognized Palestine as a state.In the face of accelerated Israeli settlement activity, the Palestinian Authority has renewed its campaign to sway European countries to follow Sweden’s example without waiting for the creation of a two-state solution.The Foreign Ministry said that, already in May 2016, the Irish government spoke of the importance of recognizing Palestine and of the importance of the EU role in halting the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.Ireland’s “program of government states: “We will continuerole for the EU in the Middle East Peace Process, having regard to the stalled nature of the process at present, and honor our commitment to recognize the State of Palestine as part of a lasting settlement of the conflict.”On Thursday, during a heated back-bench debate at the United Kingdom’s House of Commons, parliamentarians also called for their country to accept Palestinian statehood. In a short speech at the end of the debate, Minister for the Middle East Tobias Ellwood indicated that the time was not right for his country to take this step.
“Recognition of Palestine – we need the Palestinians to do more, to prevent the incitement of violence. President Abbas condemned certain aspects of it, but we are still seeing schools and squares being named after terrorists.These are not the confidence- building measures that we need to see. There is no relationship with Hamas at all,” Ellwood told the House of Commons.“These are the steps that will allow us to move forward, so there can be a recognition in the long term of the state of Palestine. But they are not there yet,” Ellwood said.He also condemned Israeli settlement activity and spoke against the Knesset’s passage of the of the settlements law that retroactively legalizes 4,000 settler homes private Palestinian property. A “dangerous threshold was crossed,” he said.Ellwood defended his country’s December vote at the UN Security Council in favor of Resolution 2334 that condemned Israeli settlement activity.MP John Howell from the Conservative Party took issue with the focus on settlements as a stumbling block to peace. “Why are we picking on settlements, when there is a whole range of issues,” Howell said.The UN Security Council resolution, he said, is part of the internationalization of the peace, when what is needed is for Israelis and Palestinians to hold direct talks without preconditions.Unfortunately, he said, the Palestinians “come up with preconditions each and every time and it usually involves the release of more terrorists.”He detailed the steps Israel had taken against settlement activity, including a 10-month moratorium on settler housing starts that ran from November 2009 to September 2010. He also pointed to the 2008 Annapolis process in which Israel offered to withdraw from 94% of the West Bank.“At the moment, all Israel has received is a denial of its right to exist and an intensification of violence,” he said.The PA, he warned, is scared to hold elections, because it fears it will be replaced by ISIS.MP Simon Danczuk of the Labour Party said that Israel’s “perpetual land grabs are immoral and illegal and a barrier to peace.Why should the Palestinians believe that Israel is committed to peace when they see these homes go up?” he asked.MP Helen Goodman of Labour urged the United Kingdom to impose “personal sanctions” on those people who promote and benefit from the settlements.In the last afternoon, the House of Commons passed a resolution that condemned settlement activity.In Belgium, Abbas spoke against Israeli settlement activity when he met with Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel. He had held a similar conversation just two days earlier with French President François Hollande.“What Israel did in passing a law in the Knesset a few days ago legalizes the theft of private Palestinian land owned by Palestinians for the benefit of settlers,” Abbas said, referring to the settlement regulation law passed on Monday.Israeli settlement activity, he said, “is an assault against our people, a violation of international law, and a wanton challenge to international law, which has been expressed through UNSC Resolution 2334. We will confront [these acts] in all international bodies and we will continue our work with international courts to protect our existence and survival on Palestine’s land.“We call on the international community including Belgium and all European states to help us implement UNSC Resolution 2334 before too much time passes.We need to not allow for the reinforcement racist discrimination: ‘Apartheid,’” Abbas said.He also spoke by telephone with EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini, who is in Washington meeting with officials.Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is expected to travel to Washington next week to meet with US President Donald Trump, during which West Bank settlement activity is expected to be part of their discussions.On Thursday, the former residents of the Amona outpost called on Netanyahu to approve the new settlement he promised them prior to their evacuation on February 1 and 2. Trump has been largely silent on the issue of West Bank settlement activity, but two weeks ago, the White House issued a statement asking Israel to refrain from unilateral action such as the creation of settlements.
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