Coalition backs SF motion that building on Palestinian land ‘de facto annexation’

‘We need to be honest with what is happening on the ground,’ says Simon Coveney

Simon Coveney: Ireland is the first EU country to state this and it could be a message to the global community. Photograph: The Irish Times

Simon Coveney: Ireland is the first EU country to state this and it could be a message to the global community. Photograph: The Irish Times

 

The Government has backed a Sinn Féin motion describing the building of Israeli settlements in Palestinian territories as de facto annexation.

Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney said during a Dáil debate on the motion that “we need to be honest with what is happening on the ground and call it out” as “de facto annexation”.

He added that Ireland is the first EU country to state this and it could be a message to the global community.

The Minister echoed the comments of Sinn Féin foreign affairs spokesman John Brady who said “we are baldly stating that Israel is acting illegally under international law”.

“Ireland has the potential to be a pathfinder for a principled and morally robust approach within the European Union and the UN Security Council.”

He said this is a first step, but a major step, towards bringing the weight of international law to bear on Israel in a meaningful manner.

The motion was agreed after Sinn Féin accepted a Government amendment condemning the actions of militant Palestinian group Hamas.

An incorporeal Cabinet meeting was held on Tuesday and agreed to back the Sinn Féin proposal if the motion accepted violence on all sides in the conflict, following intense violence over the past two weeks before a ceasefire was called.

More than 250 Palestinians have been killed including 66 children, with 10 Israeli deaths including two children.

During the debate, however, the Government had not expected Sinn Féin to accept the amendment and Mr Coveney said he found it “deeply troubling” that the main Opposition party cannot bring itself to also condemn the actions of Hamas for also killing children and innocent civilians.

The Government amendment condemns “the killing of civilians by both sides in this conflict”. But when Mr Coveney insisted on the amendment at the end of the debate, Sinn Féin accepted it without a vote.

A vote, however, was called after Mr Coveney rejected a People Before Profit amendment, calling for agreement that Israel was guilty of war crimes, ethnic cleansing and apartheid and consequently the Israeli ambassador and embassy staff should be expelled, along with the imposition of comprehensive sanctions on the Israeli state.

Settlement activity

This vote will be taken on Wednesday night.

The motion describes the annexation of Palestinian territory as a violation of fundamental principles of international law and condemns the “recent and ongoing forced displacement of Palestinian communities in the occupied Palestinian territory”.

It says all parties should recognise international humanitarian and human rights law to protect civilians and that the forced displacement of the Palestinian population and expansion of Israeli settlements in the West Bank and east Jerusalem undermines the prospect of peace and are “flagrant violations of international law”. It also says the Government should focus its efforts on bringing an end to settlement activity.

Mr Coveney said “Israel’s actions in increasing the scope and density of settlements and surrounding infrastructure, which effectively cuts off east Jerusalem from the rest of the West Bank, indicates an intention of permanency”.

He said it was no longer an option to return “to the flouting of international law, with the relentless expansion of illegal settlements, settlements in occupied Palestinian territory. We cannot return to forced evictions of Palestinians from their homes in east Jerusalem and other parts of the West Bank.”

Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald said the motion is the most explicit call from the Dáil for an end to annexation. “The time to act is now and that is what the global community demands,” she said.