Bill banning Israeli settlement goods moves a step closer to passing

Fine Gael says Bill requires Government to do ‘something not in its power’

Senator Frances Black  stressed  the Bill was ‘not singling out any state’ .Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons

Senator Frances Black stressed the Bill was ‘not singling out any state’ .Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons

a
 

Legislation to ban the the importation of Israeli goods produced in settlements in the Palestinian territories has moved a step closer to being passed in the Seanad.

Senators backed committee stage of the controversial Control of Economic Activity (Occupied Territories) Bill during a debate lasting just over an hour.

A vote taken on the title of the Bill was won by the Opposition , supported by Fianna Fáil, Sinn Féin, Labour and the Green Party but opposed by Fine Gael.

The legislation, sponsored by Independent Senator Frances Black, makes it an offence to buy goods and services from Israeli settlements which have been condemned by Ireland and the EU as illegal.

Acting Cathaoirleach Paul Coghlan called for order as Palestinian representatives and supporters of the legislation applauded the Bill, which reached final stage in the Upper House.

It is understood the final stage of the Bill was not taken as it had not been scheduled on the order of business.

Ms Black stressed that the Bill was “not singling out any state. No individual state is mentioned anywhere in this Bill. Instead we rely on the clear decisions of international courts as respected arbiters of international law.”

She said there was a capacity to include other territories on the basis of international court rulings.

Fine Gael Senator Joe O’Reilly said the Government wanted to return to the pre-Six Day war boundaries, before the territories were taken over by Israel, and the wanted the “acceleration rate of occupation for 2017 and 2018 to stop”.

Mr O’Reilly said the Government “are not supporters in any fashion of the occupation of these territories”.

He said Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney agreed with the objective of the legislation but it was “question of how to arrive at the same objectives”.

Mr O’Reilly said “the Bill requires the Government to do something which is not in its power”.

Goods from Israeli settlements could only be excluded at EU level, not by an individual member state,

It would expose the State to the risk of legal action by anyone claiming to be affected by the Bill.

Fine Gael Senator Neale Richmond asked if the legislation was watertight enough that the Government could stand over in its interpretation of an occupied territory. “Yesterday’s occupied territory might be a liberated nation. Tomorrow’s liberated nation might be an occupied territory.”

Sinn Féin Senator Niall Ó Donnghaile said it was not about singling out any country “but marking clearly those breaches of international law”.

Fianna Fáil’s recently appointed Seanad foreign affairs spokesman Ned O’Sullivan whose party supports the Bill, said they were “very conscious of the wrongs committed by both sides” in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Mr O’Sullivan added that “it is certainly not our intention to alienate Israel or its allies. We fully support Israel’s right to self-determination.”

It was also his party’s policy that the Palestinian people had the right to self determination and an independent state in Palestine.

But he said the continued expansion of illegal settlements on Palestinian land and the deteriorating humanitarian situation in Gaza and the West Bank cannot be allowed to continue.

Israel has condemned the Bill and its embassy in Dublin previously described it as a “populist, dangerous and extremist anti-Israel boycott initiative” that would hurt the chances of dialogue between Israel and Palestine.

a