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View from the Dead Sea to Jerusalem road in the West Bank Palestinian area of the separation barrier. Shutterstock/Brian Maudsley
occupied territories bill

'A cop out': Calls for government to take a stand as over 100 Irish politicians sign letter opposing West Bank annexation

The Occupied Territories Bill was dropped from the programme for government at the behest of Fine Gael.

FIANNA FÁIL LEADER Micheál Martin and Sinn Féin leader are among the 130 Irish politicians who have signed a letter opposing the annexation of occupied West Bank territory.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that in July he will start the process extending Israeli sovereignty over parts of the West Bank containing Jewish settlements.

Development agencies Trócaire and Christian Aid released the letter signed by the Irish elected representatives, who are among over 1,000 European parliamentarians who also co-signed the correspondence.

The letter calls on Europe to “take the lead in bringing international actors together to prevent annexation and to safeguard the prospects of the two-state solution and a just resolution” to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The plan to annex settlements is in line with US President Donald Trump’s contentious so-called ‘peace’ plan, which has been dismissed by Palestinian leaders. 

In addition to Martin and McDonald, signatories include Labour party leader Alan Kelly, Catherine Murphy, co-leader of the Social Democrats, People Before Profit’s Richard Boyd Barrett and Green Party TDs Patrick Costello and Neasa Hourigan.

Speaking in the Dáil today, Labour’s Brendan Howlin said Ireland should be a “moral leaders” when it comes to this matter pushing this agenda, and should use our new seat on the UN Security Council to highlight the opposition to such actions by Israel.

The Sinn Féin leader said the Irish government should take a “strong stance now against the annexation”. 

“This must stop,” she said, adding that Ireland’s history in conflict resolution puts us in a unique position to speak out against it.

Dropping of the Occupied Territories Bill 

McDonald also raised the issue of the Occupied Territories Bill being dropped from the programme for government document. 

The Bill, which was brought to the Oireachtas by independent senator Frances Black, seeks to prevent Ireland from trading in goods and services imported from Israeli-occupied territories.

Although it does not mention Israel or Palestine specifically, it aims to prohibit “the import and sales of goods, services and natural resources originating in illegal settlements in occupied territories”.

The Bill passed in the Seanad in December 2018 despite government opposition, before passing second stage in the Dáil in January 2019.

Fine Gael and Tánaiste Simon Coveney have repeatedly outlined their opposition to the Bill.

During the negotiations, the Green Party pushed to have the Bill included in the programme for government document.

However, Fine Gael resisted. When the Green Party’s Neasa Hourigan was asked last week what happened to the Bill, she said “Simon Coveney happened”.

McDonald said that the removal of the Bill from the programme for government was a “copping out” of this government and Fine Gael.

The decision to drop the Occupied Territories Bill was both cynical and wrong and any incoming government must take action now to demonstrate solidarity” with those “living under the cruel and illegal occupation”. 

Speaking about Coveney’s involvement in removing the Bill from the document, McDonald said it was an “indictment of Fine Gael policy when it comes to the rights of the Palestinian people.”

Solidarity–People Before Profit Gino Kenny asked what Ireland was going to do to take a stand, stating that he had serious concern in relation to lobbying by the Israeli ambassador to Ireland.

Concerns of the possible closure of the Israeli embassy due to members of government voting in favour of the Bill were previously described as “unrealistic”.

A number of other legal minds, including the former Attorney General Michael McDowell have said the Bill does not contravene European trade law.

Writing an opinion piece for this website, the Israeli ambassador to Ireland, Ophir Kariv, called on the government to reject the Bill stating that it is a boycott on Israeli goods produced in the West Bank.

American lobby groups and representatives from two US states were among those who urged the government to vote down the Occupied Territories Bill last year.

Documents released to under the Freedom of Information Act revealed how international groups sought to influence the passage of the Bill through both Houses of the Oireachtas.

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