European ministers call for Israel to reverse plans to expand settlements in West Bank

Simon Coveney also expresses concern at Israeli move against groups funded by Irish Aid

Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney said the Government has not received detailed evidence to support the claims made by Israel

Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney said the Government has not received detailed evidence to support the claims made by Israel

 

A group of European ministers for foreign affairs have jointly called on the government of Israel to reverse its plans to expand settlements in the West Bank.

Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney has joined 10 other European states to urge Israel to “reverse its decision to advance plans for the construction of around 3,000 settlement units in the West Bank”.

“We reiterate our strong opposition to its [Israel’s] policy of settlement expansion across the Occupied Palestinian Territories, which violates international law and undermines efforts for the two-state solution,” the European ministers said.

“We call on both parties to build on steps taken in recent months to improve co-operation and reduce tensions. We reiterate our call to implement United Nations [Security Council] Resolution 2334 with all its provisions, with the aim of rebuilding trust and creating the conditions necessary for promoting peace.”

The strongly worded statement comes as Mr Coveney expressed concern after six Palestinian NGOs, including organisations that receive support from Irish Aid and the EU, were designated “terrorist entities” by Israel’s ministry of defence.

Last Friday Israel announced that the six groups were now designated as “terrorist organisations”.

The EU is in touch with Israeli authorities to seek clarification on the designations, Mr Coveney said.

“We were not informed in advance of these designations, and have not received detailed evidence.”

He said Ireland is committed to funding civil society organisations and human rights defenders through the Irish Aid programme, including Palestinian civil society groups. Ireland maintains robust checks to ensure that funding given is used only for the purpose intended, he said.

Allegations

“Previous allegations against civil society organisations in the occupied Palestinian territory (OPT) which are supported by Ireland and the EU have not been substantiated,” the Minister said.

“Terrorism is a very serious issue, and must be addressed with both resolve and with evidence.”

He said Friday’s designation had the potential to impact not only the six organisations directly affected but civil society more broadly across the OPT.

The Israeli embassy in Dublin on Thursday called on the Irish Government to be more selective in who it helps fund in the Palestinian territories.

In the statement the Israeli embassy called on “the Irish Government, through Irish Aid, to be more discriminatory in funding so-called human rights organisations in the Palestinian territories”.

The organisations, it said, “have no interest in promoting genuine peace and reconciliation between Israelis and Palestinians which should be the aim of all genuine human rights activists”.

Trócaire, the Catholic bishops’ overseas development agency, has strongly condemned the Israeli decision targeting the six groups, describing it as “shocking and unjust” and an “attack” on international human rights.

Last Friday Israeli minister for defence Benny Gantz claimed the six organisations had effectively operated as an arm of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), which Israel considers “a terror group”.

“Those organisations were active under the cover of civil society organisations, but in practice belong [to] and constitute an arm of the [PFLP] leadership, the main activity of which is the liberation of Palestine and destruction of Israel,” Mr Gantz’s office said in a statement.

The six civil society organisations, which are based in the OPT, include al-Haq, a longstanding Trócaire partner, as well as Addameer, Defence for Children Palestine, the Union of Agricultural Work Committees, Bisan Center for Research and Development and the Union of Palestinian Women Committees.

All are now prohibited from receiving funding or even for public support to be expressed for their activities under a 2016 law which gives the Israeli authorities power to close offices, seize assets, as well as to arrest and jail their staff.