TDs asked ‘do we want to be on right side of history?’

Government backbenchers call for recognition of Palestinian state

 Israeli soldiers fire a 155mm self-propelled howitzer towards the Gaza Strip from their position along the border in the southern Israeli city of Sderot on Thursday. Photograph: JACK GUEZ / AFP via Getty Images

Israeli soldiers fire a 155mm self-propelled howitzer towards the Gaza Strip from their position along the border in the southern Israeli city of Sderot on Thursday. Photograph: JACK GUEZ / AFP via Getty Images

 

A number of Government backbenchers have called for Ireland to “show leadership” and recognise the Palestinian state and for the implementation of the Occupied Territories legislation as a response to the “brutality of Israel’s actions in Gaza”.

The calls came as fighting continued with 230 Palestinian deaths including 64 children, and 12 deaths in Israel of whom two were children.

Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney said the killings were “shameful and will reinforce and embed hatred, grief and a continuance of what drives this conflict into the future”.

He warned that “brutality and dispossession will not lead to peaceful secure future for anyone”. The Minister had earlier announced €1.5 million in emergency supports for the deteriorating situation in the Gaza Strip.

Tipperary TD Jackie Cahill of Fianna Fáil called on the Government to show leadership on the crisis. He said it would be easy to dismiss the Control of Economic Activity (Occupied Territories) Bill and the full recognition of the Palestinian state as token gestures but he said “we have a decision to make”.

The Dáil and Seanad have passed a motion to recognise the State of Palestine but the Government wishes to do this as part of a wider EU move and has rejected legislation to ban import of goods from the Occupied Territories as unconstitutional.

But Mr Cahill asked “do we want to be on the right side of history and be the leader we can be, or do we want to play it safe? Israel should have a right to safety, but so should Palestinians. I hope we can play our part in ensuring that happens.”

Green Party Dublin South-Central TD Patrick Costello said “the only thing we can really do to end this is to recognise the annexation, call it out and work to end the occupation”.

He said Palestinian state “recognition, the occupied territories Bill and recognition of de facto annexation are the things we should be doing to achieve that end”.

Opening a Dáil debate on the conflict Mr Coveney reiterated his criticism of the United Nations Security Council that it could not agree a clear joint statement.

“The global structure for preventing conflict and bringing conflict to an end has been unable until now to call for a ceasefire on a conflict as significant as this one,” he said.

He called on the EU to “step up” and use its powers to play a role in addressing the Israeli Palestinian conflict.

He said “this is in our neighbourhood and we must be a much more influential actor than we are currently”.

Mr Coveney said that “Ireland is working closely with France on intensive negotiations in New York today to agree a Security Council resolution” and he was meeting his French counterpart in Dublin after the debate. “The UN Security Council must speak on this issue,” he said.

Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald said that “to suggest that Israel is simply defending itself is an obscenity and shame on anyone, any so-called world leader, wherever they are, if they repeat such an obscenity”.

“The truth is that the international community has seen what has happened to the Palestinian people in full view and have stepped back and allowed it to happen.”

Labour foreign affairs spokesman Brendan Howlin noted that Norway’s sovereign wealth fund dropped two companies that were involved in the development of Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank.

He said that “we too must take a lead in meaningful economic sanctions aimed at any company, individual or state entity that violates international law by supporting or facilitating illegal settlements”.

Social Democrats TD Gary Gannon said diplomacy is failing and “now is the time to recognise the Palestinian state. Now is the time to recognise we all have a responsibility to be brave.”

Independent TD Thomas Pringle called on the Ceann Comhairle to immediately disband the Ireland-Israel parliamentary friendship committee as it was “completely fair” to say “we do not extend friendship to those who kill innocent children and civilians”.

He also said Ireland should expel the Israeli ambassador. He pointed out that “we expelled a Russian diplomat in a show of solidarity with the UK in 2018”.