Ireland will push for a ban on products from illegal Israeli settlements in the Palestinian territories in the autumn if building is not stopped, said Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore.
His threat followed an unusually strident warning from the EU that the illegal constructions were jeopardising the possibility of a two-state solution.
This follows the formation of a new coalition government in Israel by prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the issue of a joint statement by him and the Palestinian Authority saying they are both committed to peace.
Normally EU foreign ministers would pull back from issuing strong statements in such an environment, but one of those countries key to such a decision, Germany, had pushed for pressure on Israel in particular.
Mr Gilmore said the critical issue was what was actually happening on the ground since the timetable hadn’t been met, there had also been the intervention of the king of Jordan and an exchange of letters between Palestine’s president Abbas and Mr Netanyahu.
“Meanwhile, on the ground, settlement activity has continued — if there is to be a two-state solution, as President Abbas said, you can’t have a Palestinian state if Israel continues to build on it”, he said.
On the one hand Israeli settlers were building swimming pools on hilltops while wells for the local Palestinian population were drying up, while Jerusalem was being encircled by settlements. “They will effectively separate the northern part of the west bank from the southern part — and there is also the sheer unfairness and inequality of it”.
“We may have to look at the question of banning products from the settlement areas coming into to the European Union. We have always resisted the idea of boycotts in relation to Israel, but I think a distinction has to be drawn here between Israel and the settlements”, he said.
Asked if he had cabinet support for this, he said he was speaking for the Government. “The settlements are illegal, it’s not a major step . . . as the European Union we’re saying unanimously that the settlements are illegal and, if the issue of settlements is not addressed by Israel, then the European Union is going to have to respond.”
The statement after the meeting also said the EU was deeply concerned about Israeli settler extremism and incitement in the West Bank, and deliberate provocations against Palestinian civilians. “It calls on the government of Israel to bring the perpetrators to justice and comply with its obligations under international law”.
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