Simon Coveney: The UN Security Council is being tested

Minister says international community needs to speak up on Israeli violence

Simon Coveney: “There are serious questions that need answering as to whether there have been breaches of international law”. Photograph: Getty Images

Simon Coveney: “There are serious questions that need answering as to whether there have been breaches of international law”. Photograph: Getty Images

 

The United Nations Security Council needs to speak with one voice on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict but “hasn’t been able to so far”, according to Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney.

Speaking ahead of a meeting on Sunday of the Council of which Ireland is currently a member, Mr Coveney said “the Security Council is being tested”.

“The international community has got to speak up here”, he stressed. Israel had a right to defend itself but not “in a way that results in so many civilians and children being brutalised in the way we’re seeing now”.

As the violence intensifies in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the immediate priority is to stop the killing and get a ceasefire as soon as possible, he said.

Mr Coveney said the US is by far the most influential country with Israel and he was sure that a lot of work was going on.

He added that Ireland would “speak much more publicly than others feel they can in relation to continuing to shine a spotlight on this, to make it very uncomfortable for decision makers who are currently resisting ceasefire”.

The Minister added that they should not shy away from “insisting on an independent investigation in terms of what happened here” and the context.

Many people were predicting another round of violence “when settlements continue to expand on the West Bank, when demolitions are accelerated, when forced evictions take place in East Jerusalem”.

He said the region was driven by “more and more and more tension” and that had to be the focus of the Security Council.

Mr Coveney acknowledged he did not expect the situation to change after Sunday’s meeting when interviewed on RTÉ’s This Week programme.

Asked about the UN being Security Council “entirely ineffective” in holding Israel to account for its “disproportionate retaliation” for Hamas rocket attacks, and if this would change, he replied: “I don’t know is the straight answer”.

There had been global strong condemnation of rocket fire on Israel by Hamas, who he said are considered a terrorist organisation by most countries including Ireland.

But he said Israel have to be held to account as well. “There are serious questions that need answering as to whether there have been breaches of international law”.

He said there was a responsibility on the Security Council to make an independent assessment of whether Israel had committed war crimes.

The focus for now “has to be to stop the killing, to de-escalate tension, to get a ceasefire, to stop rockets being fired from Gaza and stop the horrific casualties from Israel’s response.

Mr Coveney, who has visited Gaza numerous times, said it was a “cage” that was 25 miles long and about 6 miles wide with a population of more than 2 million people.

As violence intensifies in the region he said there had been more than 180 deaths in the past seven days in Gaza including more than 50 children. More than one in four people who have died in this conflict have been children and two children also died in Israel because of rocket attacks.

“The Security Council is being tested today and certainly I will speak very directly about the need to speak with one voice. We haven’t been able to do that yet unfortunately,” after two emergency sessions.

He ruled out expelling the Israeli ambassador, which a number of opposition parties have called for.

“Expelling the Israeli ambassador won’t save a single Palestinian child or Israeli,” he said adding that to expel and ambassador is a “flawed” idea because the Government would no longer have a channel of communication.

“The idea that you advance the argument that you’re making in refusing to talk to a government or ambassador is flawed. That’s not how international (diplomacy) works.”