Israel warns of potential tech sector impact over Ireland’s Palestine stance

Taoiseach dismisses Dana Erlich’s claims as a ‘distraction’ as Israeli military kills dozens in Rafah refugee camp

The Government’s decision to recognise a Palestinian state sends the “wrong message” internationally about Ireland as a tech hub, Israel’s ambassador to Dublin has said, suggesting it will impact on foreign investment in the Irish technology sector.

Dana Erlich’s claim was quickly rejected by Taoiseach Simon Harris who described the Israeli envoy’s comments as a “distraction”.

Speaking in Jerusalem, where Ms Erlich has held foreign ministry consultations after being recalled in protest, she voiced hope of returning to Ireland, though she saw the Irish Government as siding with the Palestinians against Israel.

The statehood recognition is due to be formalised on Tuesday by Ireland in conjunction with Spain and Norway.

READ MORE

The move was denounced as a “reward for terrorism” by Israel, which is waging a devastating Gaza war and knock-on fighting on other fronts in response to the October 7th cross-border rampage by Hamas, the dominant Palestinian Islamist faction.

Ms Erlich said all aspects of Israeli-Irish ties were under review but stopped short of predicting further action by her government, which has continued sparring with Madrid.

“Ireland is not neutral or an honest broker in this case, because they are very supportive of the Palestinians. But what we are saying [is]: this is not the time for such announcement on recognition,” Ms Erlich said in an interview.

Many Irish sympathise with Israel “behind the scenes”, she said: “I think there is a lot of potential in our bilateral relations, if it’s cybersecurity or healthcare, climate change. I hope to be given that opportunity to continue that.”

But she said a public mood of hostility, which some Jews deem anti-Semitic, is making Israelis question their place in Ireland – a threat to tech services that account for the lion’s share of some $5 billion (€4.6 billion) in annual trade between the countries.

“We are getting more and more phone calls and conversations of concerned people – if it’s Israelis who invest in Ireland and are concerned about their investment, if it’s Israelis who have relocated to Ireland into different tech companies and either are requesting to be relocated somewhere else or asking to return to Israel,” Ms Erlich said.

“I think it sends the wrong message about the location and the centrality of Ireland as a tech hub when there are more and more people who are concerned about moving to Ireland. I don’t think that this is the message that Ireland wants to send to the world… And this is not what we want to see.”

Asked about Ms Erlich’s comments on Monday, Mr Harris said: “I think it’s a distraction quite frankly… What we have decided to do is recognise the state of Palestine because we believe in a two-state solution.

“We believe in the state of Israel and the state of Palestine living side by side in peace and stability. And we believe at a time when others are seeking to bomb that hope to oblivion that it’s more important than ever to keep that hope alive.”

Speaking at the launch of Fine Gael’s local and European election manifestos, Mr Harris also criticised the Israeli attack on a refugee camp at Rafah in Gaza that occurred on Sunday night describing the killing of dozens of civilians as “barbaric”.

Asked if he was disappointed by Ms Erlich’s remarks, Mr Harris said: “It’s up to the ambassador to say what the ambassador wished to say.”

The business connection between Ireland and Israel has already been hit by the decision announced on February 5th by Israel’s national carrier, El Al, not to renew direct flights to Dublin that were launched last year, citing changes in customer demands since the Gaza war.

The Government has rejected calls by pro-Palestinian activists to impose sanctions or an economic boycott on Israel.

But on April 5th, Ireland said its €15 billion sovereign investment fund would divest from six Israeli companies, including some of its largest banks, over their activities in the occupied Palestinian territories. – Additional reporting Reuters

Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn is a Political Correspondent at The Irish Times