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Seanad Éireann debate -
Tuesday, 30 Jan 2018

Vol. 255 No. 9

Control of Economic Activity (Occupied Territories) Bill 2018: Second Stage (Resumed)

Question again proposed: "That the Bill be now read a Second Time."

I thank the Minister and warmly welcome him to the House. I also thank the distinguished guests in the Visitors Gallery and the many friends and colleagues on all sides of this debate who have come here.

It is important that we set out the context. This is the Control of Economic Activity (Occupied Territories) Bill 2018, which is a Private Members' Bill. Somehow, with all the emails, all the telephone calls and all the lobbying for and against, there is a lot of confusion and a lot of information which, in a way, does not help. I thank the Minister for his absolute clarity in terms of where the Government is coming from. I thank him for coming in early, for setting the scene and for expressing in a very genuine way his concerns about how Ireland and the Government want to interplay with this, but also for the pragmatic way in which he has set out his case, which I acknowledge.

I want to make a number of points. First, I acknowledge there has been a huge number of emails, a huge amount of correspondence and a huge amount of confusion about this story. What we really need to know is what are the "occupied territories". They are defined as those territories that have been conformed as such by the International Court of Justice, the International Criminal Court or an international tribunal. We need to set the record straight in this regard. Ireland and its EU partners have a clear position on Israeli settlements. I take on board what the Minister said about a wider dimension - a European dimension - in terms of assisting and supporting a long-term sustainable peace process for this region. The West Bank, East Jerusalem, Gaza and the Golan Heights are territories which have been indisputably occupied by the Israelis since 1967. Israeli settlements, which are clearly illegal under international law, constitute obstacles to peace and threaten to make a two-state solution to the Israeli and Palestinian conflict impossible. That is the reality.

In 2012 the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Trade called for a ban on imports from illegal settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories. This ban is supported by Trócaire, Christian Aid and representatives of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions, all of which are represented here today. I thank them for their work and preparation in regard to this legislation which they have fed in to all of us, across the political spectrum, in Leinster House. This is not and cannot be about a boycott of Israeli goods and Israeli trade. Simply put, boycotts do not work. They do bring focus and attention but, in the long run, they do not bring ultimate solutions. We have learned this from previous boycotts on other international stages. I strongly oppose any attempt to boycott Israeli trade or Israeli goods in the wider region.

As I have said, there is an important need for an EU dimension. While the EU condemns the illegality of settlements, it continues to support economic trade for those settlements and continues to trade with them. That presents a difficulty in that it does support some of the activities going on there. It is important to note that although the Bill covers other areas, we need not only focus on the Israeli and Palestinian territories. That has been the main focus today, however, so I will follow up on some of the issues to which the Minister referred.

It is my understanding that the Bill, if enacted, would make it a criminal act in Irish law for Irish persons or companies to sell to, import goods from or provide services to Israeli settlements. It would punish violators with up to five years in prison. There are potential economic impacts and we have to be pragmatic and realistic in terms of addressing these. These measures could be difficult to enforce since imports from Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories do not arrive in Ireland directly in many cases, but generally via other EU member states. Goods arriving in Ireland, therefore, would not always be subject to the usual standard checks.

The Bill has drawn international attention, which is not bad. If nothing else happens today, we are discussing this in our Parliament and it is drawing international attention. I took the time to look at international media coverage today and it is mentioned right across Europe and across the United States. There is talk about this House meeting today to discuss this important topic. That, in itself, is a good day's work.

Will it be covered by RTÉ?

On the argument that the Bill, if enacted, would gravely undermine Ireland's economic links to the United States, that is an argument some have made and we have to take it on board. We have to respect that people come from different perspectives and points of view and they have made that point. It is very important that we emphasise those points.

Turning to the Palestinian-Israeli crisis, I believe we would all condemn any breach of human rights, any situation that hurls people out of their homes or any situation that seeks to cut off essential water supplies and food and denies people dignity. That is unacceptable, wherever one lives, wants to live or chooses to live to bring up a family. There is a history and while today is not the day for history lessons, I think we need to be careful in that regard. We all recognise that lands have been confiscated, there has been violence, homes have been demolished and there have been violations of people's human rights. We are right to be advocates in that regard. We would not be where we are in politics if we did not seek to be advocates and seek to have these issues addressed.

It is important that, as Members of the Oireachtas, we rightly focus on human rights defenders, support social activists and support people who support sustainable communities and sustainable workers. It is important that we stand in solidarity with the world in promoting justice and a durable peace for the Palestinian people and Israeli people, which is critical. I thank the proposers of this Bill for allowing this debate to happen. At least it gives a focus, although there is a lot more work to be done. We are a member of the EU and must work with the EU to have a response in order that, somewhere along the line, we will have an everlasting peace and a recognition that people's rights cannot be violated and they must be allowed the right to self-determination and to live in peace with their neighbours.

Cuirim fáilte roimh an Aire go dtí an díospóireacht thábhachtach seo. I welcome the Minister and extend a particular welcome to the Palestinian ambassador, H.E. Ahmad Abdelrazek, and to Dr. Barghouthi, who are with us in the Visitors Gallery.

I commend the Senators who have brought forward this extremely important legislation in their Private Members' slot. Like Senator Boyhan, I also thank all the Irish NGOs and organisations that have worked hard in helping to support this Bill.

I refer to a vote in the Danish Parliament just last week on a very similar Bill where all of the parties in the Danish Parliament, bar a far-right party, voted to boycott products from illegal Israeli settlements. Given the only party to vote against that Bill was a far-right party, Senator Mark Daly might want to reflect on this.

This Bill has a noble and just aim. It seeks to prohibit the import and sale of goods, services and natural resources originating in illegal settlements in occupied territories. It is not extreme. It only seeks to establish a legal framework to ban these imports from settlements which are already illegal under international humanitarian law and, most importantly, domestic Irish law.

Goods and services that are only available because of gross human rights abuses and violations of international law should not be available in Ireland. Allowing such goods and services to be freely available in this state both turns a blind eye to deep human suffering and supports such illegal settlements economically. The Bill carefully recognises that the issue of whether territory is illegally occupied is a complex and contentious one. Section 3 of the Bill is drafted specifically to take this into account. Therefore, this Bill applies only to territories where there is clear international legal consensus on the status of the occupation. It also provides the option to add extra territories beyond this, provided there is agreement between the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade and both Houses of the Oireachtas.

A clear example of how this Bill would work is by stopping goods and services from illegal Israeli colonial settlements from entering Ireland. Israel's occupation of Palestine since 1967 has created a litany of human rights abuses and war crimes. Not only has Israel used its military to enforce its brutal occupation, it has facilitated the illegal transfer of 600,000 colonial settlers to occupy Palestine. This is a major - many would contest it is the major - road block to reaching a peaceful two-state solution, as the Minister outlined. Israel is also imposing an apartheid regime in occupied Palestine. The Minister rightly said that he and the Irish Government aspired to a "two-state solution that is fair to both sides". There is nothing fair about what is currently happening to the Palestinian people.

The unjust and apartheid regime that Israel implements in Palestine has once again been brought into the international spotlight because of the arrest of Ms Ahed Tamimi. Ahed is a child. She is just 16 years old. She will turn 17 tomorrow and although I do not know whether I can wish her the happiest of birthdays tomorrow, given her current circumstances, I certainly send my and my party's solidarity to her and her family and to all those children currently under arrest in Israeli prisons. I hope that will be conveyed by our friends who are in the Visitors Gallery. As I said, Ahed has been in an Israeli military prison since 19 December. She will remain imprisoned for the length of her trial. What horrendous and grievous crime did this child commit? She simply slapped the face of an Israeli soldier outside her family home in the West Bank village of Nabi Salih, which Israel illegally occupies.

As I put these words together I reflected on my own memories of being a child with an occupying military on the streets and how it felt when they took one off a school bus, when they emptied one's schoolbag, when they stopped one visiting family on the way to one's grandparents' homes. It is little wonder, and entirely understandable, that Ahed would take the kind of action she did, given-----

You lot might have been carrying a bomb.

I ask Senator Norris not to interrupt.

Senator Norris made a really worthwhile and valuable contribution and then he says nonsense like that. Ahed’s arrest and trial in a military court shows that two separate legal systems exist, depending on whether one is a Palestinian or an Israeli settler. This goes to the heart of Israel’s enforced apartheid regime.

Ahed is one of at least 1,400 Palestinian children who have been prosecuted in special Israeli military courts in the past three years. However, illegal Israeli colonial settlers are tried in civil courts. It is time for the Irish Government to move past rhetoric and statements on Israel’s occupation of Palestine. The Irish Government has rightly stated these colonial settlements are illegal under international law. This is not stopping their expansion. Every year they continue to grow. Meanwhile, fruit and other goods originating in the illegal settlements have appeared for sale on Irish shelves. It is time for us to stop sustaining the injustice of these colonial settlements. It is time for us to once and for all create a legal framework to ban from our State goods created on the back of human rights abuses and crippling injustice.

The people of Ireland know only too well the horrendous reality of colonisation and illegal plantations. Irish people know the brutal reality of military occupation. We must stand, shoulder to shoulder, with our brothers and sisters in Palestine facing this injustice today, and today's Bill provides us with the perfect opportunity to do so. We have a duty to not only condemn Israel’s illegal occupation and aggression against Palestine but also to challenge it and to support the people of Palestine. We cannot, on the one hand, condemn illegal colonial settlements and, on the other, freely trade with them. Our words ring hollow otherwise.

It is very disappointing that Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael Seanadóirí are tonight sitting on their hands where supporting this Bill is concerned. That is not good enough for the oppressed people of Palestine, nor indeed for the people who vote for both parties and would support this modest proposal. Where would the people of South Africa be today if workers like those in Dunnes Stores here in Dublin and similar stores around the world had not organised and boycotted South African goods?

Nelson Mandela who is not here anymore rightly praised Dunnes workers for their solidarity and action and their boycott. That goes to show that practical political solidarity and tangible action such as boycotts can have an effect against unjust apartheid and, in this case, the illegal occupation of Palestinian land.

This is the time for action. I will conclude on this final point. It is time for us to end this state's unjust trade with illegal colonial settlements. One of the previous speakers, Senator O'Reilly, for whom I have nothing but the utmost respect and regard, expressed what I am sure was a legitimate concern to the effect that support for this Bill would put us in a particular camp. If it puts us in the camp of the right and the just and in the camp opposing apartheid, that is the camp in which we need to find ourselves. I ask Members to reflect on the big, bold initiatives. Look at some of the initiatives that were taken in our own peace process. President Bill Clinton and others were advised not to grant Deputy Gerry Adams a visa, saying that the President would be seen to be partisan, or to be in a particular camp. That is the kind of initiative that transformed and enabled our peace process. That is the kind of initiative, the kind of big, bold incentive that sometimes must be pursued. We have an opportunity to do that tonight. I encourage all Seanadóirí to support this Bill.

At this juncture, I acknowledge the presence of two politicians in the Visitors Gallery, Michelle Gildernew, MP, and Catherine Kelly, MLA, from Sinn Féin. They are very welcome.

Our next slot is allocated to the Technical Group. I understand Senator Bacik wishes to share time.

I wish to share time with Senator Ó Clochartaigh.

Is that agreed? Agreed.

Go raibh maith agat.

I remind Members that there are more speakers left than there is time allocated; therefore, some Senators will need to share time or they will lose their slot.

That is why we are sharing time.

Four minutes and four minutes.

That is why we are sharing time.

The next speaker after that is Senator Colm Burke of Fine Gael.

I welcome the Tánaiste to the House and our visitors in the Visitors Gallery. They are very welcome to this important debate.

I commend Senator Black and her colleagues in the Civil Engagement group, as well as Senator Norris, on putting forward this important Bill. I had the pleasure of attending a Sadaka conference on Palestine some months ago, at which Senator Black's Bill was announced, and at which a number of us had the opportunity to discuss it at length. On behalf of the Labour Party Members of the Seanad, I am happy to support the Bill. It is in keeping with the long track record of the Labour Party on Palestinian rights. Senator Norris spoke about the role of former Deputy Eamon Gilmore as Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade. The former Deputy put forward very strongly the-----

He was splendid.

I thank Senator Norris. I will pass that compliment on to him. He very strongly advocated the rights of the Palestinian people and indeed in addressing the United Nations General Assembly in New York in September 2011, in a speech that was groundbreaking at that time, he stated Ireland would support the Palestinian bid to become a full member of the UN. He repeated this position on numerous occasions as Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade.

Like Senator Norris, I have been a long-time supporter of the Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign and the rights of the Palestinian people. I too found the letter from Israeli citizens to The Irish Times extremely powerful, particularly where they said that the occupation of the West Bank and east Jerusalem is morally and strategically unsustainable. They were very powerful and important words, saying that it is detrimental to peace and poses a threat to the security of Israel.

I commend Senator Black's approach in this Bill in distinguishing between Israel and the occupied territories. That makes the Bill all the more compelling. The Bill seeks to ensure Ireland upholds its humanitarian obligations by restricting economic activity with settlements which are deemed illegal at international law. There is an impressive coalition of support signed up for the Bill, as others have pointed out. It has been supported by the Irish Congress of Trade Unions, Trócaire, Christian Aid, Sadaka and others.

I listened very carefully to what the Minister said and acknowledge and recognise the immense efforts he has made in trying to further the peace process in the Middle East. As a member of the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Trade, and Defence, I have raised this issue with him and the Department on a number of occasions and know how actively engaged he is in it.

I think we all recognise that the Tánaiste and the State are committed to a resolution of the crisis in the Middle East and to ensuring there will be a two-state solution. We recognise the Tánaiste's commitment to multilateral action through the EU. I remind him that other EU member states, including Sweden, have recognised the state of Palestine as a unilateral step in support of the Palestinian people. I think we could do that here, for example, by bringing forward a Bill such as this and supporting it at Government level, without undermining the multilateral attempts that are being made through the EU to bring about a lasting peace settlement in the Middle East. If we were to do something like that, it would be more than a symbolic act in support of the Palestinian people.

Senator Black has agreed to the adjournment of the debate on the Bill. I hope the latter will give us all time to work together to help to achieve a negotiated settlement that will be better for the Palestinian people and will see the rights of the Palestinian people who are so oppressed, particularly in the occupied territories, respected at last.

Ba mhaith liom buíochas a ghabháil leis an Seanadóir Bacik as a cuid ama a roinnt liom. Tréaslaím leis an Seanadóir Black faoin Bhille an-tábhachtach seo a thabhairt chun cinn. I welcome the ambassador and Dr. Barghouthi and the teams that are working very closely with them. I also welcome the representatives of Sadaka, Trócaire, Christian Aid, Congress and other organisations. It strikes me that a great deal of diplomatic ballet dancing is taking place. There is a significant lack of urgency on this issue. I am afraid that all of this will be kicked to touch in the diplomatic rhetoric that is happening. The NGOs and the Palestinian people have conveyed to us their concern that if it takes another six months for any kind of diplomatic movement, more settlements will be put in place and, as we have heard, more concrete will be put on the peace process. Quite simply, that would be totally and utterly unacceptable.

Anybody who is observing this whole process from any neutral standpoint will see that the two-state solution is being rendered absolutely impossible by the building of these settlements. The diplomatic effort in which we are engaging is fake in a lot of senses. I refer, for example, to what the decision of the US Administration in respect of Jerusalem and to the lack of any movement whatsoever from an EU perspective. It is simply not good enough for the EU to hide behind multilateralism because it means that rather than standing up and showing leadership, we are seen to be complicit in the Israeli stance of putting more settlements in place, cutting off the water and imposing an apartheid system that does not allow people to travel on roads in their own country.

I concur with an Seanadóir Ó Donnghaile's stance on the boycott. I totally disagree with Senator Boyhan. I think a boycott is a hugely symbolic act. It would put a really positive message out there. It would send hope to the people of Palestine that somebody out there is listening. If, God forbid, a Government in this country did something similar in an apartheid manner on this island, I hope an international government would boycott this country on the basis that what was happening was completely and utterly wrong.

The NGOs have made some very compelling legal arguments to us. This is an illegal occupation. These goods are produced illegally on lands that are not held legally in a manner that is contrary to the Geneva Convention, which has been transposed into Irish law. Therefore, it can be argued that Irish law is being contravened by people who buy beauty products and other products that are produced on these occupied lands. I think we need to take a much stronger position on this. It is a great commendation of the Danish authorities that they have come out in support of a similar action. Even though Denmark is a small country, it has been able to stand up. I agree with the Tánaiste that we have a great reputation from a neutral perspective, but it is only when we stand up and show leadership that this is really welcomed. That he has been in Palestine and Israel on two occasions since his appointment as Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade shows the strength of his personal commitment and indicates that he would like to do this.

I am really disappointed with Fianna Fáil's wishy-washy stance on this issue. It is time for Fianna Fáil to stand up and be counted. I have heard many speeches from its representatives over the years expressing their concern about this issue, but they need to stand up and be counted when we vote on it in Parliament, which is where it counts. I wish they would get off the fence on this issue and stand up for the people of Palestine. They must believe the incursion is illegal or that it is not illegal. I think we are all saying here that it is illegal. It is about time we stood up to be counted. If this Parliament were to vote in favour of this Bill, it would send a statement that would resonate across the world.

I do not think anybody would hold it against us. I think a lot of people would say, "Fair play to them". I hope many Governments would follow. Tá sé tábhachtach go ndéanfaimid beart de réir briathar. We are hearing a lot of talk, but the words that are being spoken are being totally contradicted by the actions that are being taken, such as the construction of more settlements in these areas. We have to take a stand. Gabhaim comhghairdeas arís leis an Seanadóir Black. Beidh mé ag tacú leis an mBille.

I welcome the Tánaiste and thank him for his contribution. I thank Senator Black for bringing forward this Bill. I agree with my colleague, Senator Boyhan, about the importance of engaging in debate. The introduction of this legislation has led to discussion on this issue in Ireland and throughout the international community.

My Sinn Féin colleague mentioned the boycott of South African goods. It is important to mention that no legislation was passed to organise that boycott.

No. It was organised by the workers.

Yes. That is right.

The people spoke.

That is the point I am making. No legislation was put in place to organise that boycott. We can organise a boycott in this country without legislation. While I welcome the Bill, I have concerns about it. I suppose I am looking at it purely from a legal point of view. In particular, I note that section 4 of the Bill, which relates to regulation, provides that "the Minister may make regulations for the purposes of enabling any provision of this Act to have full effect". The problem with the making of such regulations is that it may be in breach of EU regulations. That is one of the issues I have with this legislation. The second issue I have relates to section 7 of the Bill.

Not according to the professor of international law at the University of Cambridge.

I accept the point the Senator is making, but I am talking about this aspect of the matter from an EU point of view.

Section 7 which relates to the sale of settlement goods provides that it "shall be an offence for a person to sell or attempt to sell settlement goods". The burden of proof will be on the State. It will be difficult for the State to prove that the goods were produced in a location where settlement had occurred. That will be one of the problems with this legislation.

I agree with the point that was made about the whole Palestinian issue. When I was a Member of the European Parliament, I was a member of the foreign affairs committee and the human rights subcommittee. I visited Palestine in 2009 after very severe bombing of Gaza by the Israelis. I saw the damage that was done to many people. This is about settlements. People move into Palestinian areas with mobile homes and then complain that they do not have adequate protection. Israeli troops are then deployed to give protection to those mobile homes. When the troops are in place and providing protection, the construction of new houses and new business premises begins. The Israeli Government which stands idly by while this goes on authorises the presence of troops in these areas. This movement into Palestinian areas is totally illegal and has been allowed to continue, not for a number of years but for decades at this stage. As part of this entire process, boundaries are put in place around areas in which Palestinians live. I have seen live electric wire being used on fencing. I am not talking about the electric fences we use in Ireland to control animals on farms. I am talking about real live electricity being used on fences to control where Palestinians can go. To me, it is appalling that this happens in part of the area we are discussing.

We have a part to play. Ireland has a population of between 4.5 million and 5 million and is part of a community of 500 million.

I think the biggest mistake Europe has made in the past ten years in not appointing a high powered person to deal with foreign affairs. There is a significant vacuum in world politics as a result of the way America has developed in the past number of years. Europe can play a major part, but it needs a person of ability to deal with this issue in light of foreign affairs. That is what is lacking in the European Commission.

Ireland, a country with a population of 5 million, can exert significant influence by using the European mechanism to bring about peace and a new system between Israel and the two-state solution. If access to a market of 500 million is restricted, it has a far more powerful effect than limiting the access to a population of 5 million. The Tánaiste is correct about using his influence at European level to get the EU involved in trying to bring about a solution. It is extremely important that the Taoiseach, the Tánaiste and Ministers use every opportunity at European Union level. We must use our influence to bring about the changes required in the European Parliament. I am not convinced that under the current US Administration, we will see the change we need to bring about a peaceful solution.

In Israel there has been a tragic loss of life. In the four weeks prior to my visit to Israel in 2009 a total of 1,200 people, of whom more than 300 were children, lost their lives in a conflict that has been ongoing for four decades without a real international effort to bring about an everlasting solution.

It is time the European Union stepped into the breach. Ireland can play its part, but while it is important to debate this Bill, and we may need to come back to it in the not too distant future, at present we should use our influence at European level to bring about the change that is required.

Senator Colm Burke is sitting on his hands.

The Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade has asked for time, having told us he is committed. I believe, as many believe, that he is committed to moving forward on this issue. That time is not indefinite. I understand the Minister has spoken to my colleague, Senator Black, who is leading on the Bill and has stressed that he needs some more time to pursue his diplomatic approach and to examine these issues more closely. He has given a commitment in writing that if the debate is adjourned today, the Government will facilitate the resumption of the debate before the summer recess in July.

Let me be clear, this debate will resume and there will be an opportunity to vote-----

-----for concrete and reasonable proposals.

I will now discuss the reasons this is a good Bill. We are giving Members the space to examine the reasonable proposals but I believe that on examination they will see their concerns do not stand up. Let us also be clear that in acceding to the request for time and space, it is not a neutral or in-between position to be where we are now. As was made clear in the letter in the newspaper from many Israeli citizens, we are effectively enabling and economically sustaining settlements while we continue to trade with them. That is not a neutral position but a position of support for things that we should not be supporting.

It is not just the Palestinians who are losing ground. The international community is losing ground. We are losing ground in East Jerusalem. In this very month, January 2018, an order was made for 1,000 new settlement homes. We are losing ground in terms of diplomatic credibility and the space for dealing with the issue seriously as we should through international law. It will not be a matter of relationship building and chatting to people in the room. To be brave diplomatically means one must show that one deals seriously with the issue. If the Minister wishes to makes progress, it will not come by waiting for a magical consensus to arise. It will only come through leadership. Ireland has given service to its European colleagues by showing leadership on the recognition of the PLO. In fairness to the Tánaiste, he was one of the first who came out in condemning the proposal to locate the embassy in East Jerusalem. In the programme for Government, there is a commitment to the recognition of the state of Palestine. That is also overdue.

We cannot wait for consensus or joining in. If the Tánaiste wants to be in a different position when he returns to the Seanad for a vote on this Bill in July, it will take leadership and not simply conversation.

I hope the Bill will be passed in July. It is not a boycott Bill, nonetheless, the boycott, which we invented, is an effective and legitimate form of individual and collective protest in unjust situations. This Bill relates only to those goods produced on land which is illegally occupied, which is not Israeli land.

I wish to address trade, an area which is of great interest to me. This Bill does not impact on or in any way breach international trade law. In terms of the World Trade Organisation, we have opinions from Michael Lynn, Senior Counsel, and Professor James Crawford, senior counsel in the UK and other senior counsel which state that GATT articles which address the exclusion of goods from particular areas are explicitly clear that the provisions which they have given which have been incorporated into WTO rules only apply to recognised territory. A state taking action in occupied territory that is not internationally recognised is not subject to those protections. Moreover the EU free trade agreement explicitly excludes goods from settlements. It is very clear the EU has stated it has not a free trade agreement which encompasses goods from occupied territories. They are excluded from trade deals. There are precedents in other free trade agreements which have excluded other occupied territories from the provision of the free trade agreement.

Article 36 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union is very clear on the exceptions to the collective rules of trade, where they can be justified on grounds of public morality, public policy and public security and the protection of health and life of humans. With great respect to my colleague, Senator O'Reilly, this is not a breach, it is a very clear exception. There is a procedure for activating this exception. For example, they have used this exception in the past in Germany. It has been used by many other countries. It is a standard practice. I do not believe there is anybody in the House who would not say the actions taking place in occupied territories do not breach public morality, public policy or the protection of health and life of humans. I am extremely confident that we do not have any concern in terms of international trade law, European trade law and WTO rules.

The Bill does not simply relate to Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories. It relates to occupied territories. I realise it can be a wide definition. The question is where do we draw the line on what are occupied territories.

We have taken the most conservative, clearest and strongest line in terms of where we do it. The International Court of Justice has a mandate from countries around the world to rule on international disputes and, ultimately, to define international law and we have set that as the bar. This affects the occupied territories in terms of Israel but it is also worth noting, however, that there are other areas such as Western Papua which has been under the control of Indonesia for many years. We know that many of the Pacific Islands states have been discussing taking cases through the International Court of Justice procedures to ensure that Western Papua would also be recognised as an occupied state, under which rules it would, again, fall within the bounds of our Bill. There are many other areas of occupation and control that can be discussed.

I would like to indicate that when the Bill goes to Committee Stage, which I hope will happen, we are willing to work with the Government and all parties to ensure we have the best possible and clearest definition of occupied territory. Therefore, I look forward to the debate resuming and hope we are looking at a landscape that is very different from today's because right now we are losing ground.

There are about four minutes remaining, but Senator McDowell will be in possession and can resume his contribution on the next occasion.

I move that this House supports Senator Black's Bill and express my support for it. Although I have listened carefully to the Tánaiste, I believe there is a way of finding a middle ground between the flexibility he seeks, on the one hand, and, on the other, the principled, correct view expressed in the Bill at its heart. All of us know that it is for the Executive to conduct Irish foreign policy and that it cannot be that law dictates Irish foreign policy. Under the Constitution that is part of the Executive power of the State. On the other hand, it cannot be that the Houses of the Oireachtas cannot make it unlawful to import certain goods into Ireland if that is permissible under European law. I believe it is permissible under European law for the reasons that have been mentioned and I do not believe that there is a constitutional or European law obstacle to this legislation.

I do not see the Bill as anti-Israeli or anti-Semitic, nor do I see it as anti-Zionist. I believe the Bill is proportionate and reasonable in its aim. There may be a solution, however, that appeals to everyone in the House. It would be easy to insert into the Bill a provision, as is frequently the case in the United States of America, that the Bill's effect should be delayed if the Minister certifies that sufficient progress is being made in redressing the problems of the Palestinian people. One could have a provision that the Minister would have to continue to certify continual progress towards the delivery of justice for the Palestinian people as a ground on which the Minister can suspend the coming into effect of the legislation. Therefore, I strongly suggest that the Bill should pass Second Stage when that issue is to be decided.

Like many other Members of the House, I have a close interest in Middle Eastern affairs. I have been to Israel twice, Jordan, Syria before the revolution started there and Egypt on a number of occasions. I strongly believe the people of the occupied territories are entitled to some degree of solidarity internationally.

That is what the Bill is all about.

In view of the fact that the Tánaiste has indicated in writing to Senators Higgins, Black and others that the Government will come back to this before the summer and in Government time and the clear opportunity for us to amend the Bill to say it is to be the law in Ireland but that its operation may be suspended as long as the Government of Ireland continues to certify six monthly that progress is being made on behalf of the Palestinian people and the two-state solution, the Bill will have achieved something, if that is done. The eyes of the world are on us and how we deal with the Bill. We will have made our point. That we would be the first to do it is no reason not to do it.

I will make one last point that may amuse the House. On one occasion when I was Attorney General, I was having problems with Iveagh House. I will not go into the detail because confidentiality prevents me from doing so. I met a former civil servant who told me I was looking a little down and I explained my problem. He said, "On sensitive European matters, there are always three stages in Iveagh House: the time when it would be premature to do something, the time when it is too sensitive to do something, and the time when it is too late to do something." I strongly believe that we in this House have to act now. It is not premature, it is not too sensitive and it will not be too late.

As it is now 6.35 p.m., debate on this item must now be adjourned in accordance with the order of the House.

Debate adjourned.
Sitting suspended at 6.35 p.m. and resumed at 6.50 p.m.