Independent Alliance Ministers were convinced to abstain on a Dail vote today relating to the purchase of goods from the occupied territories amid protests from Israel, it can be revealed.
The Alliance — Ministers Shane Ross, Finian McGrath, John Halligan and Kevin Boxer Moran — have strong pro-Palestine views but are not backing the bill, following a “tetchy” meeting with Taoiseach Leo Varadkar.
Sources have said that Mr Varadkar said both Israel authorities and the US have expressed concerns at the Control of Economic Activity (Occupied Territories) Bill 2018.
The bill was originally brought by Senator Frances Black, but is being backed by Fianna Fáil in the Dáil.
One minister said Israel threatened the withdrawal of its embassy in Ireland were the Government to support the bill, which seeks to prohibit the purchase of goods or services produced in settlements deemed illegal.
The Government is set to oppose the bill on the grounds Ireland could not act unilaterally by banning the trade on goods from the region.
The Government is relying on advice from the Attorney General, Seamus Woulfe, that finds because trade is an EU competence, individual EU member states cannot impose trade bans unilaterally.
However, Senator Black has said she has received “expert legal advice” which found the bill is “fully compliant” with EU trade regulations.
Fianna Fail’s Niall Collins, backing the bill, said if passed, Ireland and our parliament will be sending a strong message that we condemn the occupation of territories which are deemed illegal under international law.
“This bill at its most basic is about upholding international law,” he said.
The bill applies to illegal occupations anywhere in the world and not just Israel and Palestine, but I am conscious that it is this occupation that has been the main focus of discussions on this bill.
“I want to state clearly and from the outset that if passed this bill would not ban trade in Israeli goods, it would only ban those produced in settlements built illegally beyond Israel’s borders.”
Sinn Fein’s former president Gerry Adams said the Government’s decision to oppose the Occupied Territories Bill is “reprehensible”.
He recommended the work of Frances Black and the Seanad for passing the Bill. “In contrast to the Seanad, the Government’s policy toward Palestine is reprehensible.
“The refusal to honour its Programme for Government commitment to recognise the state of Palestine, and to implement the democratic vote of both Houses of the Oireachtas to give formal recognition to a Palestinian state, is wilfully shameful,” he said.