'It is time to step up and bring an end to the destruction of Palestinian homes, lives and livelihoods'

Ireland has had its own history with war, independence and benefitting from EU-US peace-brokering with an occupying force, writes Patrick Costello.

AS THE COUNTRY was still celebrating the victory of repeal Simon Coveney was on a plane heading to the EU Foreign Affairs Council. After the meeting he tweeted about frustration at lack of any political progress.

To date most of the attempts to broker peace have been led by America, however, the recent events show us that the US is no longer fit to be a peace broker in the Middle East.

That role must now be taken up by the European Union, with Ireland as a leading negotiator.

Never an honest broker

While it has been argued America was never the honest broker it claimed (just look at its arms deals), it’s clear that the Trump administration has no interest in peace, only profiting from public office.

Trump named David Friedman as the Ambassador to Israel, his former bankruptcy lawyer, a conservative supporter of Israel’s illegal settlements and someone with no foreign policy experience. Trump has also assigned son-in-law Jared Kushner to lead the administration’s efforts in the region – Jared similarly has no foreign policy experience and is also a strong supporter of Israel settlements that are recognised internationally as illegal.

These appointments finally drop any remaining pretence of America as unbiased mediator. Beyond the Israeli and Palestinian conflict, America has acted unilaterally in exiting the Iran Agreement and moving its embassy to Jerusalem. Sanctions against US on the international stage for this action are unlikely to be effective.

Filling this vacuum

It is up to the EU now to fill this vacuum. The European Union prides itself on democracy, peace-making and freedom of the press inside its borders but it must now put the action into the External Action Service and take on the role of peacemaker to counterbalance the US as an economic bloc.

As stated by my European Greens colleagues, this must be “a fresh EU approach that genuinely serves the interests of peace and security of the Palestinian and Israeli people alike”.

For this to happen we need real leadership – while the EU has long condemned the actions of Israel, it has left that criticism empty of action as they hid behind the promise of a US-led peace process. The EU has even failed to even seek compensation for EU funded schools and solar panels destroyed and confiscated by Israel to pave the way for settlers – it was left to individual EU countries like Belgium to take a stand.

Peace, not war

The Green Party is an international party built on the belief that peace, not war, is the correct way to solve the our collective problems on this one, fragile earth.

In an move to push for the EU to take on this responsibility the Green Party of Ireland recently put forward a motion at the European Greens conference to condemn the treatment of Palestinians in Gaza and demanding action from the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and her External Action Service.

To lay the groundwork for this process, the Irish government must themselves show leadership, leadership that so far been absent, taking the following starting steps to show leadership in any oncoming process:

  1. Ireland must recognise the state of Palestine now as part of the urgent need to revive a peace process between Israel and the Palestinians. The international community must show support for Palestine to give it a footing in negotiations with Israel – there must be ‘parity of esteem’ before any constructive change can occur. This is not a radical demand, in fact recognising Palestine as a state is part of the EU two-state solution on the basis of the 1967 borders, was committed to in the Programme for Partnership Government, was voted for by both houses of the Oireachtas and the European Parliament.
  1. Government must pass as quickly as possible Frances Black’s Occupied Territories Bill 2018, co-signed by Green Party Senator Grace O’Sullivan. This Bill, backed by aid agencies Trocaire and Christian Aid, targets trade with Israeli settlements recognised as illegal under international law. These settlements have caused untold damage, trauma and grief for Palestinians forced from their homes by soldiers and settlers, backed by the full weight of the Israeli state. Israel’s biggest trading partner is the EU, and it benefits from the Accession Trade Agreement, which is closest you can come to the free trade deals EU countries benefit from. This Bill will ensure that no such free trade deal, or indeed any deal, can exist between the EU and criminal colonies. Rather than giving empty words of condemnation and sympathy, the EU must hold Israel accountable for its actions.
  1. Finally, there can be no peace without transparency and disclosure. The Tanaiste has already called for an independent and transparent investigations into these violent and tragic events, but now must push for it to actually happen and provide the financial and logistical support needed.

Ireland has had its own history with war, independence and benefitting from EU-US peace-brokering with an occupying force. It is time to step up to the international stage and use that knowledge to bring about an end to the needless slaughter and destruction of Palestinian homes, lives and livelihoods.

Patrick Costello is Green Party councillor in Rathgar-Rathmines and has served as a human rights observer in occupied Palestine.

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