Irish MEPs on delegation blocked by Israel from entering Gaza

Israel accused of blocking European Parliament’s work by refusing entry to delegation chair

Two Irish MEPs were on an official European Parliament delegation mission to Palestine that has been cancelled after the delegation's chair was blocked from entering Israel.

The delegation, which includes Green Party Ireland South MEP Grace O'Sullivan and Sinn Féin Midlands Northwest MEP Chris McManus, were denied entry to the Palestinian territory of Gaza.

Spanish MEP Manu Pineda, the delegation’s chair who was denied entry and had led a previous delegation in 2020, said Israel was “blocking” the work of the parliament.

Israel's delegation to the European Union informed the parliament that based on "information received from the competent authorities in Israel" regarding Mr Pineda's requested entry, the Israel foreign ministry denied his request to enter Israel.

The six MEPs were due to arrive in Tel Aviv, Israel on Sunday en route to the Palestine territories but were informed that the mission would not go ahead as planned due to the decision of the Israeli authorities to limit the access of the MEPs.

Ms O’Sullivan said she was standing in the queue to board her flight from Dublin Airport when she got the news that the Israeli authorities were obstructing their access to Gaza.

"We had planned meetings with NGOs and officials from the Palestinian Authority but unfortunately the trip is cancelled and the chair of the delegation has been denied entry to Tel Aviv," she said.

The politician said the delegation was going to visit Palestinians working “in the most difficult circumstances, especially in light of the recent killing of journalist Shireen Abu Akleh”.

Ms Abu Akleh (51), a journalist with Al Jazeera, was reporting on an Israeli raid in the city of Jenin in the occupied West Bank this month when she was shot in the head.

Ms O'Sullivan said she expected European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen to raise the blocking of access "at the highest level with the Israeli authorities" on an upcoming visit.

“It’s vital to ensure that MEPs and European Parliament bodies are finally allowed in Palestine, including Gaza,” she said.

"The European Parliament and the EU at large has shown that it can take appropriate retaliatory measures in cases where countries such as Russia and China target our MEPs, I want to see the similar leadership in this current situation."

She said it was important to take a strong stand on this in defence of elected representatives and the Palestinians “whose voices are denied by moves like this.”

Mr McManus said he was “disappointed” but not surprised that the delegation had been refused entry to Palestinian territory.

Both the European Parliament and the Irish Government needed to ask serious questions of Israel about why it was blocking MEPs "in their legitimate work," he said.

European Parliament president Roberta Metsola, who is in Israel to meet president Isaac Herzog and prime minister Naftali Bennett, said she regretted Israel's decision to refuse entry to Mr Pineda and would raise the decision directly with the Israeli authorities during her visit.

“Respect for MEPs and the European Parliament is essential for good relations,” she said.

Mr Pineda thanked Ms Metsola for her remarks and called on her to “apply reciprocity in our institution until the decision is reversed.”

“It is important that we are united to defend the European Parliament,” he said.

The Israeli embassy in Dublin was contacted for a comment.