Ireland’s recognition of Palestine

Populist politics or principled statecraft?

Letters to the Editor. Illustration: Paul Scott

Sir, – It comes as no surprise that there is a polarised reaction to the recognition by Ireland of the state of Palestine. There are valid concerns that it emboldens Hamas and provides them some justification for their terrorist actions of October 7th. However, it is important to look at this in a more balanced way. It is possible to recognise the right of Israel to exist in peace and security, while at the same time be critical of the illegal actions of the Israeli government in their collective punishment of the citizens of Gaza. Similarly it is possible to recognise the right of Palestinians to self-determination within the 1967 borders while condemning the actions of Hamas.

Israeli criticism of Ireland’s action point out that it does nothing to advance the cause of peace; however, at this juncture the Israeli government is demonstrating no interest in peace, or Palestinian statehood. Any talk of negotiations by this and previous Israeli governments have been on their terms only, with no concessions or recognition of a viable Palestinian homeland. Their current actions in Gaza and the under-reported situation in the West Bank reflect a policy that makes the possibility of a two-state solution practically untenable, which I suspect is what they have been working toward for some time.

Recognising the Palestinian State now, based on the UN recognised borders of 1967, allows Palestine negotiate the terms of its existence with the increasing support of global nations. Ireland, having itself broken free of the yoke of colonialism, is perfectly placed to understand the importance, albeit symbolic, of this recognition. We have learned on this island that terrorism only flourishes the absence of a just society for all, and isolating terrorists only comes about when a peaceful alternative is presented. Nobody supporting the recognition of the Palestinian state could want Hamas to be part of any government therein.

If the US and EU really believed in the fundamentals of international law, then a fully supported UN mandate to secure the Palestinian state within the 1967 borders would long ago have been implemented. The ongoing expansion of illegal Israeli settlements, without consequence, in the West Bank show that these parties are not honest brokers when it comes to Palestine, and only pay lip-service to international law when it suits their agenda. In their absence other states must step up. Ireland, Norway, and Spain are to be commended and hopefully more will follow suit. – Yours, etc,





Sir, – The formal request by Karim Khan, the chief prosecutor at the International Criminal Court (ICC), for arrest warrants for Binyamin Netanyahu and Yoav Gallant, as well as Hamas leaders, should have surprised no-one, but it is clear from the response of Israel and its allies that it came as a shock (“Israelis rally to Netanyahu over arrest warrants”, World News, May 23rd). In truth, after decades of doing as they wished, it is entirely understandable why they feel this way. Israel has long enjoyed impunity under the protective wing of the United States and other western allies.

However, US president Joe Biden’s contemptuous reaction to the ICC application was particularly disturbing – and revealing. We are not all equal before the law. Indeed, it is depressingly obvious that the US believes that international humanitarian law applies only to its enemies and not to its allies.

The contradictions have been glaring for some time now.

Why stringent western economic sanctions against Russia, for example, but none against Israel? We know why, and it has much more to do with geopolitics than an equitable application of international law. – Yours, etc,



Co Dublin.

Sir, – In 2023, Ireland exported €520 million worth of products and services to Israel and €2.2 million worth to Palestine. Israel is also a vital source of imports in the tech sector. Palestine send us some dates.

The Coalition leaders have decided that politically it is better to go for the gesture of Palestinian recognition than support jobs and the Irish economy.

Their populism will come at a price. – Is mise,



Co Donegal.

Sir, – Sinn Féin and the Palestinian cause have long been bedfellows, with recent events in the Middle East providing an opportunity to enhance the former’s optics in the eyes of Irish voters.

The cynic in me suspects that this week’s announcement by the Irish Government that it intends to recognise the State of Palestine is no more than the latest attempt by the Government to eat Sinn Féin’s lunch in the run-up to the general election.

However this plays out in the long term, Ireland’s reputation as an honest broker on the international stage has been irreparably damaged by the short-term thinking designed to ensure re-election. – Yours, etc,



Co Clare.

Sir, – Taoiseach Simon Harris’s defensive statement that “The IRA was never the people of Ireland and Hamas is not the people of Palestine” will have reminded his audience of the IRA’s violent campaign for a united Ireland.

The parallel ends, there, however. An IRA ceasefire was an essential requirement of the peace process that led to the Belfast Agreement in 1998.

By contrast, Ireland’s decision to prematurely recognise an undefined Palestinian state signals clearly to Hamas and the world that terrorism, murder, rape and hostage-taking will be rewarded. How else to explain the absence of recognition of a Palestinian state in the three decades since the Oslo Accords of 1993 to 1995? Hamas has achieved by its barbaric attack on Israel on October 7th what its deadly enemy Fatah in the West Bank couldn’t.

If the Government is really genuine in its aspiration for a two-state solution, it should fly the flags of both Israel and Palestine together over Leinster House, but certainly not the Palestinian flag alone. – Yours, etc,



Dublin 6.

Sir, – The Government has made a grave error in recognising the undefined state of Palestine. It is a reward for terrorism, and regarded as such internationally. Others on this page have pointed to the lack of fundamental building blocks of a democratic state; that it will not stop Hamas in their stated aim of destruction of the State of Israel and genocide of Jews; that no conditions were set, such as – at a minimum – the release of the hostages, the establishment of women’s rights, and, given that Palestinians have repeatedly rejected a two-state solution, acknowledgement of the right to existence of Israel.

To cap a bad week for Ireland, we had the President extend his condolences to the Iranian people on the death of the president of Iran, a man who led a regime with an appalling record of human rights abuses and which funds several terrorist groups in the Middle East.

Not in my name. – Yours, etc,



Dublin 6.

Sir, – Desmond FitzGerald (Letters, May 23rd) writes that “even today the Palestinian government has not declared a state”. In fact, the state of Palestine was declared by the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) on November 15th, 1988, and, before the end of 1988, 82 states had recognised it. Today, that number has risen to almost 150.

The PLO declaration of a Palestinian state was acknowledged by the UN General Assembly on December 15th, 1988, in Resolution 43/177. This was adopted by 104 votes to two, with 36 abstentions, Israel and the US being the only dissenters. The resolution also stated that the Palestinian people should be enabled to “exercise their sovereignty over their territory occupied since 1967″, that is, the West Bank (including East Jerusalem) and Gaza.

Unfortunately, more than 35 years later, the Palestinian people are still not able to exercise sovereignty over their territory because Israel has refused to withdraw from it and the world hasn’t applied sufficient pressure on Israel to force it to withdraw. – Yours, etc,



Sir, – Justine McCarthy ( “Decision on Palestinian was a moment to relish being Irish”, Opinion & Analysis, May 24th) links the Irish State recognising the state of Palestine and Irish neutrality. She argues that had Ireland been a member of Nato the task would have been difficult to achieve.

Both Spain and Norway are members of Nato and also recognised Palestinian statehood on a very historic day. – Yours, etc,



Dublin 3.