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Occupied Territories Bill 2018

Israeli embassy says Seanad support for trade ban with occupied lands is 'populist, dangerous and extremist'

The government opposed the Bill.

A BILL PROHIBITING the importation of Israeli goods produced in settlements in Palestinian territories has been passed in the Seanad today.

The government opposed the Bill and lost the vote.

The Bill aims to prohibit Ireland from trading in goods and services from Israeli-occupied territories by prohibiting “the import and sales of goods, services and natural resources originating in illegal settlements in occupied territories”.

Earlier this month, at a concert in Dublin, former Pink Floyd star Roger Waters urged people to support the Occupied Territories Bill 2018.

Opposition parties including Labour, Sinn Féin, Fianna Fáil, as well as independent senators all voiced their support for such a move to prohibit trade ahead of the vote this afternoon.

‘Sending a strong message’

Fianna Fáil’s Niall Collins said it is his view that Ireland passing the Occupied Territories Bill has the potential to send a strong message that the issue of illegal settlements is being taken seriously and needs to be addressed.

Speaking to recently about her own Bill, Senator Frances Black said “it is really important for Ireland to lead on this. Hopefully other countries will follow suit and do the same”.

“Ireland should oppose war crimes, no matter where they’re committed. The reason Israel-Palestine is covered is precisely because of the overwhelming international legal consensus that the settlement project in the West Bank is grossly illegal, as has been reaffirmed endless times by the EU, UN, ICJ and the Irish government.”

She told the Seanad today that it was not good enough to condemn the Israeli actions, and then “ask how much for the eggs”. Black said there is a “deep hypocrisy in that”.

The Israeli Embassy in Ireland has been highly critical of the Bill.

Reacting to the Seanad vote today, the embassy said in a statement:

Seanad Éireann has given its support to a populist, dangerous and extremist anti – Israel boycott initiative that  hurts the chances of dialogue between Israel and the Palestinians; it will have a negative impact on the diplomatic process in the Middle East.
The absurdity in the Seanad Éireann initiative is that it will harm the livelihoods of many Palestinians who work in the Israeli industrial zones affected by the boycott.
Israel will consider its response in accordance with developments regarding this legislation.

Government opposition

Many senators today commended Foreign Minister and Tánaiste Simon Coveney for his “genuine sincerity” and dedication to the Palestine cause.

Senators such as Gerard Craughwell said they could understand that the government “would fight the good fight” to oppose the Bill, but that sometimes “a bold step is needed”.

Voicing his concern about the Bill today, Coveney said to prohibit the import and sales of goods from the territories would not advance the peace process in the Middle East.

During his speech, where he recalled an emotional time when he first visited Palestine, and he noted the concerns about the lack of progress in the Middle East peace process.

“My problem with the proposal we are debating today… in my view it is unlikely to contribute to changing anything,” he said.

He said people should know that Ireland is fighting to change things in Palestine through “persuasion”.

“We are seeing today the pouring of concrete on land that belongs to someone else,” said Coveney, adding that the government has no problem “calling it out for what it is – illegal activity”.

He said Ireland is using its influence to change the status quo in the region so it can move towards a two-State solution.

Black said if the Irish government were waiting for EU-wide action, we could be waiting forever, she said.

The government ultimately opposed to the Bill, however, it is understood some Independent members of Cabinet expressed their support for the move, but ultimately towed the line.

A government spokesperson for the Independent Alliance ministers said there were “differing views” adding that both Finian McGrath and John Halligan had been “outspoken” on the issues at play in Palestine.

Another government spokesperson said the Bill runs contrary to EU rules and is “not implementable”.

The government’s legal advice is being disputed, with senior counsel and Senator Michael McDowell on the record as stating that it does not.

The Bill will now proceed to Second Stage in the Seanad where the proposed legislation will be scrutinised section by section. It will later make its way to the Dáil and due to cross-party support, it is envisaged the Bill will pass all stages in the House.

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