Irish Examiner view: Government declaration condemning Israel is a brave move

Dáil Eireann passed a Sinn Féin motion declaring the building of Israeli settlements in the Palestinian territories a de facto annexation in violation of international law
Irish Examiner view: Government declaration condemning Israel is a brave move

Simon Coveney, the foreign affairs minister, said we need to be honest with what is happening with the building of Israeli settlements in the Palestinian territories and call it out as “de facto annexation”. 

The condemnation by the Dáil of the building of Israeli settlements in the Palestinian territories is a signification occasion in both national and European politics. 

On Wednesday evening, the Dáil passed a Sinn Féin motion declaring the settlements a de facto annexation in violation of international law. 

The Government voted in favour of the motion following the acceptance by Sinn Féin of an amendment condemning the actions of militant Palestinian group Hamas.

During the debate on the motion, Simon Coveney, the foreign affairs minister, said that “we need to be honest with what is happening on the ground and call it out” as “de facto annexation”. 

Ireland is the first EU country to describe the settlements in these terms.

As might be expected, the Israeli reaction was swift and condemnatory. 

A spokesman for the country’s foreign ministry said Ireland’s “outrageous and baseless” position on the settlements reflects a “blatantly one-sided and simplistic policy” and constitutes a “victory for extremists Palestinian factions”.

However, the settlement policy pursued by Israel for decades has all the hallmarks of a de facto annexation. 

More than 650,000 Israelis now live in these settlements, which have expanded from the hinterland of East Jerusalem right out into the West Bank. 

Each expansion further diminishes the prospect of a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian dispute.

Some observers have noted that, any such outcome, would probably see Israel annex around a third of pre-1967 West Bank and leave the Palestinians with a mish-mash of disconnected enclaves.

Now this country, through its parliament, has called a spade a spade. 

The gesture of itself is symbolic, but may turn out to be significant if other EU countries are willing to do likewise. 

For too long, the US has set the tone for the approach of western countries to the Middle East and many would argue that balance and fairness have taken a back seat to its imperative of standing with Israel.

The Dáil motion also points to changes in domestic politics. 

In times gone by, a government dominated by Fianna Fáil or Fine Gael would never have contemplated supporting such a proposal from Sinn Féin. 

Equally, Sinn Féin would never have conceded an amendment to its motion in order to acknowledge that violence is being perpetrated on both sides of the ancient conflict.

There has, since the last general election, been a shift towards the left in Irish political culture. 

It is no longer open to the Government to do as they always would have done in reacting to geopolitical issues like the Middle East; Mr Coveney’s references to annexation were highly significant in that respect.

Also, Sinn Féin, in accepting the amendment, acknowledged that a simplistic ‘good guys and bad guys’ approach to issues such as the Middle East is all very well when protesting, but will butter no parsnips if the party enters government.

Changed times in how our parliament views some parts of the world, and a degree of maturity in how the various parties are facing up to changes.

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