I thank members for their questions. I thank all the Deputies and Senators, across parties and Independents, who have shown an interest to join the Friends of Palestine parliamentary group. As Deputy Clarke said, the numbers have increased and this is a great achievement for the Thirty-third Dáil. It reflects how the people of Ireland, as always, show support to the Palestinian cause. I thank Ireland and the Irish people for the continuous support, not only politically but financially, to the Palestinian people.
I will go to Deputy Brady's last questions about the occupied territories Bill. These questions related to how we think the international community could take a concrete measure to stop activities in settlements and annexation. I will phrase it like this. If Israel does not bear any sanction, it is free to go ahead with any annexation and it has no incentive to stop the settlement expansion. Israel should see how this affects its economy and financial support. Without feeling this or seeing the effect of it, Israel will not take any action. That is why, when we talk about the occupied territories Bill, sanctions or taking concrete measures, again it is the occupation that we are talking about. For me and many Palestinians, we see that now is the time to take these actions.
I would go to the issue of recognition again. Recognising the state of Palestine would empower our position. I know the Dáil voted in favour of this and called on the Government in 2014 to recognise the state of Palestine but it still has not been enacted. We called on not only Ireland but on many European countries to recognise the state of Palestine. This is one of the big issues for the Palestinians. It will empower our position in any future negotiation with Israel to recognise the state of Palestine on 1967 borders and to recognise the issue of east Jerusalem as an occupied territory. This will make the borders a matter that the whole world and Israel should abide by under international law. Otherwise, things will move on with annexation and settlement expansion and no one can stop Israel.
I mention the creeping annexation. Since 1967, Israel built and expanded settlements to implement annexation on a daily basis. The people themselves who deal with this are mainly living in the West Bank and on a daily basis they are under threat from any kind of attack on their land while farming. One will always find that settlers suddenly attack one's land while one is farming. The settlers have the right to besiege the land and to force one to leave, along with the Israeli army. The Israeli occupation used this policy since 1967. If one goes to the last map, one can see it is not only the US plan. This is what has happened after 50 years of occupation, settlements and annexation. This is how the Palestinian territories look. They are enclaves with no connections between them. How will they look in a few years? It is time for the international community to realise that recognising the state of Palestine on 1967 borders is something that will encourage the Palestinians to go ahead with negotiations in a strong position.
I will return to the questions about the United States election. The Palestinian people are always positive. Otherwise, we would end up in another world if we did not force ourselves to be resilient. With all of the oppression the Palestinians have suffered for all these years we have stayed steadfast and continued to believe that we have a right. We are there and we will remain there. From there, we will defend our right to self-determination and independence. We look at the United States election in a positive way.
During the Trump era, the situation for Palestinians deteriorated. Everyone knows how the US stopped its support for the UN Relief and Works Agency, UNRWA, and closed our mission in Washington. Given the situation that Trump's Middle East peace plan put the Palestinians in, we strongly reject it and will not accept it. Many people around the world support us and, under international law, no one agrees with it. We must stand and defend the rule of law. Doing so is important for the international community.
I hope that we have reached a point where the plan will stop and not be continued under the new US Presidency. We hope that things will be a little better. We should not raise our expectations, but we are positive and seeking better relations with the United States, at least such that we will be able to bring back our mission to the US. This would have a positive effect, as it would allow our voice to reach most US citizens. We have seen a considerable change in the views of young people in the Democratic Party towards the cause of Palestine and the rights of Palestinians. We must work hard with them and the whole of the US citizenry, and our presence there will help us to do that and to bring the cause of Palestine to a different position with the new US Presidency.
Questions were asked about demolitions and the recent expansion in Israeli settlements of 5,000 units and, even more recently, more than 1,200 further settlement units. Those 1,200 units will cause damage to Palestinian unity in the West Bank because they will be in an area that splits Jerusalem from the rest of the West Bank. It lies between Jerusalem and Bethlehem. If they go ahead, it will be a disaster for Palestinian communities in the West Bank.
As to what the international community can do, it should be considering sanctions to stop Israel from doing this. Palestinians respect and acknowledge all of the statements condemning and rejecting what is happening, but statements will do nothing on the ground. That is why we have said that sanctions should be taken. In recent months, the Belgian Parliament and the Dutch Parliament adopted two motions to the effect that, if Israel went ahead with annexation, sanctions should be introduced. I hope that the Irish Parliament does something like that. Israel should be alerted that the international community can opt for something proper and concrete.
I was asked about my parents and family. They live in Gaza.
The issue of Covid-19 is dominant now and the situation is worsening every day.
The blockade of Gaza has left its people with a certain sense of despair. We have hundreds of young graduates without work. What do we expect from those young generations? They have graduated from university and are looking to the future, but there are no opportunities to work. Even before Covid, unemployment in Gaza reached frightening percentages. It is almost over 35%. The blockade affects the Gazan people in a difficult way. We talk about problems with water and electricity. Sometimes, there are only four hours of electricity per day. That can increase to eight hours per day. We talk about children going to school constantly fearing that there will be an Israeli attack. I was in Gaza in 2005. I remember the morning before I left to return to Cyprus. Early in the morning, the air was broken by the sound of attacks against Gaza. It was almost 6.30 a.m. Most of the young children were going to school. Imagine them walking to school and feeling threatened or fearing that something will happen. Imagine the mothers waiting for them fearing they might not come home safely or that their schools would be attacked. Israel often attacks schools, houses and private residences. The people of Gaza are always under threat of Israeli attack.
The water issue is severe. Ireland has supported a solar plant project in Gaza in co-operation with the French Government. There are many projects, but as long as there are blockades, not all materials can enter Gaza easily. This will cause issues for any project. Even when projects are built, Israel might come along and demolish them or attack and destroy them. Many of the structures in the West Bank that were demolished were funded by the EU, including some by the Irish Government. What kind of action will the EU take? We are discussing taxpayers' money. How do Irish politicians reflect what is happening to their people? They are paying for the Palestinians but the Israelis are coming along and demolishing. There is no punishment, sanction or action. Since 1967, many establishments that were supported by the European taxpayer have been demolished. No one has held Israel accountable for these actions.
Ireland will be a member of the United Nations Security Council from the beginning of 2021. Ireland has always supported peace and human rights issues. I hope that during its membership of the Security Council, it will work on several issues concerning human rights and children's rights. Ireland is part of the EU, but it could promote these issues within the UN and to other members of the Security Council. The committee's members might believe that Ireland is just one voice, but it is a voice that represents millions of people around the world in protecting human rights, children's rights and the right to self-determination.
Raising the voice of human rights issues and freedom in the United Nations Security Council would bring the issue of self-determination for the Palestinian people into reality and the issue of recognition of Palestine as a permanent member of the United Nations into effect. We will continue working on getting full membership of the United Nations.
Our President invited the United Nations Secretary General to an international peace conference. I hope Ireland will work on this and get the countries on the United Nations Security Council to support this. This would bring the issue of Palestine and Israel into a new era of respect for the rights and the self-determination of the Palestinians, as well as an end to the occupation of the Palestinian occupied territories.