Ireland fails to condemn Palestinians, says Netanyahu

Israeli PM openly critical of Ireland after Jerusalem meeting with Coveney

Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney puts on a kippa, the traditional Jewish skullcap for men, during his visit to the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial museum. Photograph: Gali Tibbon/Getty

Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney puts on a kippa, the traditional Jewish skullcap for men, during his visit to the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial museum. Photograph: Gali Tibbon/Getty

 

Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu has accused the Government of failing to condemn Palestinians for incitement and for glorifying those who commit terrorist attacks.

The criticism came during a meeting on Tuesday in Jerusalem with the newly-appointed Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney.

Of course, we have clear differences on some issues, but these differences are honestly held and openly expressed - Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney

During a frank exchange of views, Mr Netanyahu also asked Mr Coveney why Ireland backs organisations that call for the destruction of Israel.

Ireland – alongside Sweden – has for many years been the subject of frequent complaints by the Israeli government, who consider both governments to be amongst the strongest critics of Israel in the European Union.

Minister Simon Coveney with Prime Minister of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu, in Jerusalem where they met earlier today
Minister Simon Coveney with the prime minister of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu, in Jerusalem where they met earlier today

Many European countries, including Ireland, are overlooking the core problem of the conflict – the Palestinian refusal to recognise Israel as a Jewish state, said the Israeli prime minister.

Speaking after the meeting, Mr Coveney declined to respond directly to Mr Netanyahu’s allegations, merely describing the talks as “frank and constructive”.

“Of course, we have clear differences on some issues, but these differences are honestly held and openly expressed.

“Our discussions touched on a range of issues, including settlements, the humanitarian and political situation in Gaza and, more broadly, the prospects for the resumption of meaningful negotiations in the Middle East peace process.

“I made clear to prime minister Netanyahu Ireland’s concerns on these issues, making clear the level of public and political interest in these issues in Ireland.

“We also discussed bilateral issues, including the healthy and growing trade between Ireland and Israel, and regional political issues.”

Mr Coveney arrived in Israel on Monday at the start of a three-day visit to the Middle East, his first visit to the region as minister for foreign affairs and trade.

His itinerary includes a wide range of engagements in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and Ramallah.

Before meeting with Mr Netanyahu he paid his respects to the victims of the Holocaust at Jerusalem’s Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial museum.

On Wednesday, Mr Coveney will pay a courtesy call on Israel’s president, Reuven Rivlin. On Thursday, the minister will meet in Ramallah with the Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas and Palestinian foreign minister Riad Malki.

Mr Coveney will also meet with UN officials, including the UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, Nikolai Mladenov, and UN Humanitarian Coordinator in the occupied Palestinian Territory, Robert Piper, as well as representatives of Israeli and Palestinian NGOs funded by Irish Aid.