There are no plans to expel the Israeli ambassador to Ireland, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said in the Dáil on Tuesday.
Mr Varadkar said it was important to have “some line of communications open”, adding “that’s why we have ambassadors”.
The Taoiseach also said he rejected any suggestion “we provide any funding to Hamas directly or indirectly” after a tweet was sent from the Israel embassy over the weekend.
In a post on X, formerly known as Twitter, on Sunday, Adi Ophir Maoz, the deputy head of mission in Dublin, stated: “#Ireland Wondering who funded those tunnels of terror? A short investigation direction – 1. Find a mirror 2. Direct it to yourself 3. Voilà”
She linked to a post by the Israeli deputy spokesman on foreign affairs, Alex Gandler, who stated that international aid to Gaza was being diverted by Hamas into building tunnels.
The Israeli embassy later said the tweet was “wrong” and did not reflect its government’s policy.
Mr Varadkar said funding provided by the Irish Government was done through the UN, EU and NGOs and there was “no evidence to support that claim”. He added he was pleased the comments were subsequently deleted and a clarification issued by the embassy.
The Fine Gael leader was responding to opposition TDs, including People Before Profit’s Richard Boyd Barrett, who asked “how much death and destruction” did Israel have to visit upon the people of Gaza before “you will call for and impose sanctions on Israel and expel the Israeli ambassador from this country”.
Mr Varadkar said individually imposed sanctions were not “effective” and would have “no benefit” for the Palestinians.
“They might even just do us a degree of harm,” he said. “Sanctions are only effective when they’re imposed multilaterally by states acting together.
“In relation to the ambassador, we don’t have any plans to expel any ambassador. We didn’t expel the Russian ambassador ... we took a very particular view that it’s important to have some line of communications open and that’s why we have ambassadors.
“If you expel an ambassador or close an embassy, the only line of communication is minister to minister or sec gen to sec gen and that’s if you can even get a phone call.
“We have citizens in Palestine. We have citizens in Israel, we have citizens in Russia, it’s important that we’re able to keep those lines of communication open.
“It serves nothing to close them, even countries at war with each other have ambassadors.”
Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald asked the Taoiseach would he tell leaders at a meeting of the European Council on Thursday that they must call for “an unequivocal full ceasefire” and demand Israel it stop its slaughter of the Palestinian people.
Mr Varadkar said he would do his best to persuade the EU and the European Council to adopt a common position, which may not be possible.
“I won’t tell them deputy, that’s a very particular approach,” he told Ms McDonald. “It might be the approach that you would adopt as Taoiseach, to attend the meeting, point the finger, tell people off and do a press conference afterwards.
“That’s not how you do this job. It’s not how you actually get things done in international affairs.
“You have to build relationships. You have to build partnerships, you have to build alliances, you have to develop colleagues, and you try to use your powers of persuasion and that is particularly the case for a small country like Ireland, which is not a major economic power or major political power.”
Mr Varadkar later added that if Ms McDonald ever had the opportunity to attend a European Council meeting, whether as a minister or even as Taoiseach, “you’ll understand that there are 27 different member states and they all have their different perspective.
“Our attitude to the conflict in Israel and Palestine is very much guided by our own historical experience, but you need to understand that people’s attitudes in other countries might also be guided by their historical experience, particularly in relation to the events in the 1930s and the 1940s,” he said.
“You have to be sensitive to that, not pigheaded about it and it’s important the way you conduct yourself in international affairs.”