Ireland becomes first EU state to accuse Israel of 'de-facto annexation'

Ireland’s Parliament unanimously approved a resolution condemning “de facto annexation” in the West Bank with government support on Wednesday night, while voting down a motion to expel Israel’s ambassador.

The motion against Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria was an initiative of opposition party Sinn Féin, which has long taken an anti-Israel position, but also had the support of the government, in what Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney said made Ireland the first EU member state to officially accuse Israel of annexation.

"This is not something that I, or in my view this house, says lightly… But it reflects the huge concern we have about the intent of the actions and of course, their impact," Coveney told the Irish Parliament on Tuesday.

"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 actually happening on the ground," he said. "It is de facto annexation."

Successive Irish governments have long been highly critical of Israel and taken a leading role in the EU to press for harsher responses to what they claim are Israeli abuses. EU foreign policy is set by consensus, and proposals by Ireland, Luxembourg, Belgium, Sweden and others for sanctions are always vetoed by member states that are friendlier to Israel.

The Ireland-Israel Alliance said that during the debate on the motion, a lawmaker named Patricia Ryan compared the events in Gaza to the Holocaust, and one name Brid Smith said that charges of antisemitism are false – at a time when there was a 500% spike in antisemitic attacks in the neighboring UK.

The motion declares that “Israel has annexed de facto the land in the West Bank on which settlements are built” and accuses the Jewish state of "flagrant violations of international law.”

At Coveney's request, the motion was amended to say that the legislature "condemns the violent acts of Hamas and other militant groups, including the firing of rockets and incendiary devices from Gaza into Israel." The amendment also condemned the "indefensible response of Israel bombing civilians and essential infrastructure in the Gaza Strip." Sinn Féin voted against the amendment.

The IDF struck Gaza over 1,000 times in Operation Guardian of the Walls, mostly in pinpoint strikes targeting terrorist infrastructure, and killed only about 60 civilians in total. Most of the casualties in Gaza were Hamas terrorists, and large numbers of those casualties – including children – were hit by rockets that did not even reach Israel but instead fell short in the coastal enclave.

THE ISRAELI Foreign Ministry said it "outright rejects Ireland's outrageous and baseless position regarding Israeli communities in Judea and Samaria" and that Ireland is granting "a victory for extremist Palestinian factions."

"This position," Foreign Ministry spokesman Lior Haiat tweeted, "reflects a blatantly one-sided and simplistic policy."

The ministry also said it was "unacceptable" to make "anti-Israel statements... at a time when the citizens of Israel were being subject to terror attacks by the more than 4,000 rockets that were launched from the Gaza Strip by the Hamas terrorist organization."

Ireland-Israel Alliance executive director Jackie Goodall said the motion means “Ireland looks set to adopt a position that removes [it] as a potential peace broker in the Middle East, and removes any pretense of the Irish state being overtly hostile to the Jewish state.”

“It was especially sad to see many [lawmakers] who profess to be friends of Israel, abandon Israel," she said. "No one spoke out to defend Israel. Some mentioned wishes for peace, but all came down on one side – against the State of Israel.

“It seems that the political powers that be in Ireland are determined to solidify Ireland’s status as the most anti-Israel Western nation. Israel and the Israeli people can still count on many friends and allies amongst the Irish people, but few amongst its leaders,” she added.

The Dáil, the lower house of Ireland’s parliament, also voted down a motion by the People Before Profit Party to expel Israel's ambassador, 86-46. The motions are non-binding.

The motion also accused Israel of war crimes, ethnic cleansing and illegal settlement expansion, and said “the Israeli ambassador’s presence in Ireland is untenable in these circumstances.”

Brid Smith, a PBP lawmaker, tweeted that this was only the first attempt to expel the Israeli ambassador.

"We will return to this until there is justice for Palestine," she wrote. "Shame on those claiming to be friends of Palestine who voted against."

Within Ireland’s governing coalition, the Greens had asked for freedom to be able to vote in favor of the motion, but were denied.

Following Wednesday’s vote, the Greens seek to promote the Occupied Territories Bill, which would put heavy fines on the sale of products from the West Bank, Golan Heights or east Jerusalem. The bill has repeatedly been advanced in the Dáil and Seanad (Senate), but never became law on the grounds that it would contravene EU trade laws.

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