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Simon Coveney to raise settlement and evictions during Israel-Palestine trip

The Minister for Foreign Affairs will meet with UN officials and civil society groups during four-day Middle East trip.

Palestinians flee from the gas fired by Israeli soldiers during a demonstration against the Israeli settlements.
Palestinians flee from the gas fired by Israeli soldiers during a demonstration against the Israeli settlements.
Image: Alamy Stock Photo

MINISTER FOR FOREIGN Affairs Simon Coveney is to begin a four-day working visit to the Middle East today, traveling to Israel and Palestine first before continuing to Jordan.

It comes after 12 countries, Including Ireland, released a statement calling on Israel to reverse its decision to construct 3,000 settlement units in the West Bank – a move that Israel’s ally the US has publicly criticised.

Coveney said last week that he was “concerned” after six Palestinian NGOs were designated terrorist organisations by Israel’s Defence Ministry, including several which receive Irish and EU funding. Israel has said the move was due to their alleged financing of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP).

The Minister’s visit to Israel and Palestine will be his fifth as Minister for Foreign Affairs.

During the trip, Coveney will meet with senior political leaders, UN officials, and civil society representatives in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and Ramallah.

The Minister will also visit communities in the West Bank to hear directly about the challenges that they face and how Irish aid funding is being used.

After that, Coveney is to travel on to Jordan, where he will officially open Ireland’s new embassy alongside the Jordanian Foreign Minister, Ayman Safadi.

Since its establishment in 2019, the Embassy has deepened Ireland’s footprint in the region and strengthened links between Ireland and Jordan. The Minister will also meet with refugee communities, humanitarian actors and business representatives.

Speaking ahead of the visit to Israel and Palestine, Coveney said:

I will speak clearly and frankly about negative trends, including violence, demolitions, evictions, and settlement activity that are causing ongoing suffering and threaten to erode the prospect of a negotiated two State solution.
In the past week we have seen further negative developments in terms of settlement activity and civil society space which I have spoken out against. I will use this opportunity to again convey my concerns and call for the end of such acts.

An Oireachtas Committee was told earlier this year that Israel’s demolition of donor-funded Palestinian structures in the West Bank has increased over the past two years, and appears to have worsened during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The international community considers Israeli settlements in the West Bank illegal, with the International Court of Justice ruling in 2004 that the territory is occupied by Israeli soldiers. Israel disputes this, and lays claim to the entire West Bank territory.

Representatives of the West Bank Protection Consortium (WBPC) said that in 2020, 56% of donor-funded structures for Palestinians in the West Bank were destroyed, representing a 23% increase on 2019. As of 30 April this year, a further 316 structures have been destroyed, with 110 of them donor-funded (a 90% increase).

During his trip to Jordan, Coveney will be officially opening Ireland’s new embassy alongside Minister for Foreign Affairs Ayman Safadi.

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Coveney said that this marked “an important milestone in the deepening of ties between our two countries”, and is looking forward to discussing “a broad spectrum of issues”, including bilateral relations and trade, the Syrian conflict, the Middle East Peace Process, and challenges facing the region.

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