Israeli minister cites ‘difficulties’ with Irish public opinion

Charlie Flanagan stresses importance of peaceful two-state solution at ‘cordial’ meeting

As part of his tour of the Middle East Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade Charlie Flanagan visits the Israeli Holocaust Museum in Jerusalem. Video: Reuters

 

Israeli foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman has told his Irish counterpart Charlie Flanagan that Irish public opinion presents “difficulties” for the Jewish state.

At a meeting in Tel Aviv on Tuesday, described as “pleasant, open and friendly” by the Israeli side, Mr Lieberman also told Mr Flanagan the EU had an “unbalanced” position towards the Palestinians.

Mr Flanagan stressed the importance of finding a peaceful two-state solution to the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians and said Ireland was ready to assist. “He did not elaborate,” an Israeli spokesman told The Irish Times.

“My minister elaborated a little bit on his vision of a regional solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict,” the spokesman said. “He also mentioned what he sees as the unbalanced position of the EU with regard to the Palestinians.

“With regard to Ireland, he made a remark regarding the difficulties Israel faces in public opinion.”

Mr Lieberman, who heads the right-wing Yisrael Beiteinu party and lives in an Israeli settlement, has previously said he would be open to an Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank as part of a regional agreement but his controversial variant of the plan envisages the transfer of Israeli-Arabs – who amount to a fifth of Israel’s population – into a new Palestinian state.

“Look, it’s obvious that we don’t always see eye to eye with regard to some major issues, but even among best friends one can have differences,” Mr Lieberman’s spokesman said.

“The ministers may not have agreed on each and every detail but it was cordial and friendly.”

Middle East tour

On the third day of his tour of the Middle East, Mr Flanagan travelled from Tel Aviv to Ramallah, where he met the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, and the Palestinian prime minister, Rami Hamdallah.

In recent days he has visited Irish peacekeepers in Lebanon and spent three hours in Gaza, where he pledged funding of €4.7 million for UN agencies working with Palestinian refugees.

The Irish side has billed the visit as an information-gathering exercise aimed at gauging the potential for a resumption of the peace process.

Speaking before his meetings on Tuesday, Mr Flanagan said a “just and equitable” peace in the Middle East had long been a plank of Ireland’s foreign policy and that progress was in everyone’s interests.

“I want our voice to continue to be heard, in particular within the EU,” he said. “The Middle East peace process will be a key focus for the EU Foreign Affairs Council in the months ahead and I look forward to further discussions with my EU colleagues to see how we can best use our influence to deliver some progress.”

Earlier this week Mr Flanagan met members of Israel’s Irish community and spoke of the importance of strengthening bilateral ties between the two countries. On Wednesday he is due to travel to Jordan, where he will visit the Al Zaatari refugee camp, where more than 80,000 Syrians have taken shelter after fleeing their country’s civil war.