DUBLIN – Ireland became the first member state of the European Union to declare the building of Israeli settlements in Palestinian territories as de facto annexation.
Ireland’s Minister for Foreign Affairs, Simon Coveney, said a Sinn Féin motion on the issue “is a clear signal of the depth of feeling across Ireland.”
Coveney said the Government was concerned at the scale, pace and strategic nature of Israel’s settlement which they it thought was “de facto annexation”
He said that Ireland was the first EU state to say so, adding that he did not “do it lightly”.
But the Minister also condemned the recent rocket attacks on Israel by Palestinian militant group Hamas before he stated the governments support for the motion, which had been tabled by the opposition Sinn Fein party.
“The scale, pace and strategic nature of Israel`s actions on settlement expansion and the intent behind it have brought us to a point where we need to be honest about what is happening on the ground. … It is de facto annexation,” Coveney told parliament.
“This is not something that I, or in my view this house, says lightly. We are the first EU state to do so. But it reflects the huge concern we have about the intent of the actions and of course, their impact,” he said.
Most countries are of the view that settlements built by Israel in territory captured in the 1967 Middle East war was illegal and was an obstacle to peace with the Palestinians. The United States and Israel dispute this.
Israel cites historical and biblical links to the West Bank and around 450,000 of its settlers live there, among 3 million Palestinians. It also denies any systematic violation of the human rights of Palestinians.
The motion came days after a ceasefire ended 11 days of the worst fighting between Palestinian militants and Israel in years. The violence sparked large pro-Palestinian protests in Dublin.
Sinn Fein refused to support the government amendment condemning Hamas attacks.
“The acts of terror by Hamas and other militant groups in firing rockets indiscriminately into Israel… cannot and should not ever be justified,” Coveney said.
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