Ireland will not expel Israeli ambassador, says Varadkar

Coveney should have told envoy to ‘pack his bags’ in wake of Gaza violence, says Doherty

Sinn Féin deputy leader Pearse Doherty challenges Taoiseach Leo Varadkar to recognise the state of Palestine during a debate in the Dail. Video: Oireachtas TV

 

Ireland will not expel the Israeli ambassador Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has told the Dáil in the wake of the killing of 58 Palestinians on the Gaza border.

Mr Varadkar said the Government condemned the violence and disproprortionate use of force.

“Live ammunition is not a tool to be used for crowd control” and the Government was “profoundly shocked by the death toll and injuries inflicted by Israeli forces”, he said.

But he insisted that “you resolve conflicts through dialogue” as he rejected a call by Sinn Féin deputy leader Pearse Doherty for the ambassador to be expelled.

Earlier, TDs in the Dáil stood in silence to pay tribute to those killed and injured on the Gaza border on Monday.

Mr Varadkar said that past Irish governments had had to talk to terrorists to resolve the conflict in the North.

“The Government will not be expelling the ambassador,” he said.

“In recent decades Ireland has never expelled an ambassador.”

He said that if Ireland expelled the ambassador the Israelis would expel Ireland’s ambassador and “there would be no engagement”.

“In this country it was necessary to engage in dialogue with terrorists and it was the right thing to do,” he said, adding that Sinn Féin would understand the need to engage.

Tánaiste Simon Coveney summoned the Israeli ambassador to the Department of Foreign Affairs.
Tánaiste Simon Coveney summoned the Israeli ambassador to the Department of Foreign Affairs.

Mr Doherty said that when Tánaiste Simon Coveney called in the Israeli ambassador he “should have told the ambassador to pack his bags”.

“In response to a British security assessment in Salisbury you acted quickly and expelled a British diplomat.”

It was time to act even more definitely now, Mr Doherty said. “The Palestinian people need our solidarity more than ever.”

Shock and dismay

On Tuesday morning the Tánaiste summoned Israeli ambassador to Ireland Zeev Boker to Iveagh House to express Ireland’s shock and dismay at the level of death and injury and to call for restraint from Israel in the hours and days ahead.

The ambassador was informed of Irish demands for an independent international investigation into Monday’s deaths lead by the UN.

Mr Doherty also said the Government had to recognise the State of Palestine and follow the resolutions passed by both Dáil and Seanad on the issue.

He asked: “What will it take for this Government to say no more?”

Mr Doherty said that as Palestinians protested at the Gaza border for the right to return to homes and villages they were forced out of in 1948, in the past seven weeks Israeli troops had killed more 109 civilians and injured 12,000.

He said “it is time to expend the ambassador and do what the people of Ireland ask you to do and that is get to your feet and recognise the state of Palestine”.

Earlier, Minister of State for Disability Issues Finian McGrath told the Cabinet that the state of Palestine should be recognised within six weeks.

The Taoiseach told the Dáil the Government had committed to recognising the state of Palestine as part of a two-state solution to the Middle East conflict, but that had not come about.

Mr Varadkar said Ireland had called for an independent international investigation in the killings on the border, and supported the UN secretary-general’s call for an inquiry but Mr Doherty said that the US had already blocked a UN inquiry.

The Taoiseach said “any country is entitled to defend its border but the use of force must be proportionate”.

He added that “we profoundly disagree with the US decision to move the embassy to Jerusalem” and “Ireland’s embassy will remain in Tel Aviv”.