Israel rejects Coveney ‘annexation’ claim as ‘outrageous and baseless’

Ireland’s stance on settlements in Palestinian sparks criticism from Israel and ambassador

He said it all before, but with different words, Irish diplomatic sources suggest, but Simon Coveney’s decision to accuse Israel of “de facto annexation” is much more than just a strengthening of language.

With Government support for the Sinn Féin motion, Ireland became the first European Union state to portray the Israeli settlements on Palestinian land as annexation, which is illegal under international law.

Certainly Israel was in no doubt about the change. Israeli ambassador to Ireland Ophir Kariv told The Irish Times on Thursday: “This position is a new Irish position and we strongly disagree and do not think it is constructive.”

It “makes the chances for renewing the negotiations [more difficult] and pushes it further away from us”, he went on. However the response in Jerusalem was more robust.


There, foreign affairs spokesman Lior Haiat in a series of tweets said the Irish position was “outrageous and baseless”, was blatantly one-sided and simplistic, and a victory for “extremist Palestinian factions”.

Nuanced motion

That hard-hitting and Pavlovian response from Mr Haiat did not acknowledge that the motion – one that had been agreed by all Dáil parties – was actually more nuanced.

The Government made its support for the motion contingent on an amendment that condemned Hamas rocket attacks on Israel, but also criticised the scale of the Israeli retaliation.

Historically Ireland has carried – and continues to carry – a lot of sway internationally, reflected by the State’s recent election to membership of the United Nations’ Security Council.

Privately, the Government insists Mr Coveney’s words are no more than a statement of fact: “I do not think it is new language. [He] would have made speeches with very similar phrases.

“In reality, it is just a recognition of what is happening on the ground,” one senior figure told The Irish Times, as the scale of the Israeli reaction became clear.

Nevertheless, Government sources do concede that the adoption of a formal Dáil motion condemning the annexation ups the ante: “It is a strengthening of language, it is fair to say,” said one.

Constructive efforts

So will it make a difference from an international and diplomatic perspective? Undoubtedly, yes, say the sources but in a graduated rather than a dramatic way.

“All these things are connected,” said a source. “Ireland has always been upfront about our position on this matter. On the Security Council, we have been very vocal on events in the Middle East.”

While disagreeing with the motion, Mr Kariv did not suggest – as might have been inferred from Mr Haiat’s tweets – that it would seriously damage diplomatic ties.

“We have . . . good communication channels and a good relationship with the Irish foreign ministry,” he said, emphasising that constructive efforts to get both sides back to the table are needed without preconditions.

“Palestinians, for many years now, since the time of the Obama negotiations, have been avoiding direct negotiations,” he said, adding that a permanent peace deal is in Israel’s interests.

The motion marks an important moment for Sinn Féin too. First, it won an all-party consensus. Second, it made compromises, by accepting the amendment that condemned Hamas rocket attacks.

“Today is about generating unity around one specific issue, that is, annexation. . . I believe it is important that we remain focused on what we can achieve here,” said Sinn Féin TD John Brady.