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It’s a historic day for Ireland as we become the first EU country to call out Israel's illegal settlement activity for what it is – unlawful annexation of Palestinian land.
Last night, a motion that condemned Israel’s “de facto annexation” of Palestinian territory as a violation of the fundamental principle of international law, passed unanimously in Dáil Éireann.
For more than 50 years, Israel has occupied Palestinian territory and last year announced their intention to permanently claim, or annex under Israeli law, this Palestinian land. While this declared or de jure annexation was postponed, the facts on the ground show that the relentless pace of de facto annexation is continuing day by day – today, over 600,000 Israeli settlers live in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem in violation of international law. The illegality of the Israeli settlements has been repeatedly recognised by the Irish Government, EU and the United Nations.
This motion, which condemns the annexation by Israel of East Jerusalem and its settlement activity there and in the West Bank, is very significant as it formally calls out Israel’s actions as de facto annexation.
Despite Ireland continually pushing hard for multilateral action to ensure accountability for violations of international humanitarian law, the EU and the UN Security Council have remained divided in their willingness to censure Israel’s violations. In this context of impunity, Irish unilateral actions, including the precedent set by this motion on de facto annexation, are meaningful and essential. Ireland has yet again proven that while we are a small country, we can punch above our weight in international affairs.
Ireland’s condemnation of de facto annexation has been welcomed by Trócaire’s Israeli and Palestinian civil society partners who have been documenting and highlighting the reality of de facto annexation in recent years, along with thousands of Irish citizens who support Trócaire’s campaigns to uphold international humanitarian law.
Irish political representatives have shown great leadership in taking this important stand in setting a precedent within the EU on annexation. Sinn Féin introduced the original motion, building support for it to be co-sponsored by the Social Democrats, Labour and a number of Independent TDs. The final motion won overwhelming support by members across all political parties in Dáil Eireann, including the Government coalition.
In the wake of disappointing responses from both the European Union and the UN Security Council on the recent surge in violence, the Irish government and whole parliament is sending a strong signal to the international community that Ireland is willing to take action.
We would hope and expect other parliaments to follow Ireland’s lead in this condemnation and in calling Israel to account. It is important for the international community to recognise that Israel is increasingly controlling vast swathes of Palestinian land and using it for the benefit of its own citizens while Palestinians in these and surrounding areas are deprived of their basic rights.
Following the ceasefire announced on May 21, after 11 days of intense fighting which claimed more than 250 lives in Gaza, including 66 children, and twelve in Israel, including two children, the Irish Government must continue to demonstrate its commitment to ensuring accountability for violations of international law.
If we truly want to break the cycle of violence, we must address root causes that have brought us again to acts of violence.
Following this landmark achievement across all parties and none, the Irish Government should build on the cross party support for further action. Here are four additional steps the Government must take if we really want to ensure peace in Palestine and Israel:
It is momentous that Ireland is showing leadership in acknowledging the atrocities that are occurring. The real political work now is in ensuring change happens. Now is the time for Ireland to adopt meaningful accountability measures to end the dispossession, humiliation and systematic subjugation of the Palestinian people.