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Coveney to meet Benjamin Netanyahu for first time since objection to Jerusalem as Israeli capital

Coveney’s last meeting with the Israeli Prime Minister last year was not overly successful.

Simon Coveney and Benjamin Netanyahu during their last meeting in July.
Simon Coveney and Benjamin Netanyahu during their last meeting in July.

TÁNAISTE AND FOREIGN Affairs Minister Simon Coveney is travelling to Israel today ahead of his meeting with the country’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu tomorrow.

The meeting is part of a four-day working visit to the Middle East, his second visit to the region as Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade.

This will be the first time Coveney has met with the prime minister since American president Donald Trump said the United States recognised Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

Coveney strongly objected to the US decision, calling it “premature and ill-advised”.

He called the move “unhelpful to efforts to reach a resolution of the Middle East peace process, something which is very urgently needed”.

The Cork TD said he had contacted the US Embassy directly  “to express Ireland’s strong concerns and to urge the USA not to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital this week”.

Ireland was also one of 128 countries to approve a motion at the United Nations General Assembly rejecting the US decision.

Coveney’s concerns

In an interview with TheJournal.ie last month, Coveney said the issue is ”something he is very concerned about”.

We are very serious in Ireland about trying to play a constructive and relevant political role there.

Coveney’s last meeting with the Israeli Prime Minister last year was not overly successful, with Netanyahu posting a message to Facebook expressing criticism of Ireland’s position on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The message, posted after a meeting between Netanyahu and Coveney, stood in stark contrast to a more diplomatic tweet from the Irish minister.

Netanyahu’s statement said:

“Prime Minister Netanyahu expressed his dissatisfaction over Ireland’s traditional stance and told the Foreign Minister that his country does not condemn Palestinians for incitement and for glorifying those who commit terrorist attacks.

The Prime Minister also asked him why Ireland helps NGOs that call for the destruction of Israel and noted that many European countries are overlooking the core problem of the conflict – the Palestinian refusal to recognize the state of the Jews.

Meanwhile, Coveney’s tweet stated:

Good straight talking meeting with PM @netanyahu today, raised concerns firmly and listened to Israeli perspectives.

Visit to Gaza 

The Tánaiste will also travel to the West Bank and Gaza this week, and will meet with the Palestinian Minister for Education and Higher Education, Dr Sabri Saidam.

He will also meet officials from UNRWA and the OHCHR, as well as representatives of organisations funded by Irish Aid.

Coveney began his trip with a visit to Egypt yesterday. This is the first time a government minister has visited the region since Irish citizen Ibrahim Halawa was acquitted and released from prison last year.

Speaking at the beginning of the visit, the Tánaiste said:

This is my second trip to Israel and Palestine as Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade. This reflects the importance I attach to the Middle East Peace Process, and the high priority given to this issue by the Government, the Oireachtas and the Irish people.
I will meet with a range of interlocutors from the Government of Israel and the Palestinian Authority, as well as from other international and non-governmental organisations. I will use the opportunity of this visit to express Ireland’s concerns about the impact of the continuing occupation.

Read: Coveney has no regrets about making promises about family homelessness>

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