I have given a high priority to the Middle East Peace Process since my appointment as Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade and have personally been very engaged in efforts to keep the issue high on the international agenda. Earlier this month I visited Israel and Palestine for the fourth time in the last two years. I have also consistently engaged on this issue at EU and UN level. In February at Farmleigh, I hosted important discussions on the MEPP with a small group of EU and Arab foreign ministers, with whom I continue to discuss how we can contribute to the process of delivering a lasting peace.
The Programme for Government states that Ireland will “honour our commitment to recognise the State of Palestine as part of a lasting settlement of the conflict.” Successive Governments have seen recognition coming in the context of an overall peace agreement. In the context of widespread frustration at the lack of political progress towards an agreement, and not least in light of the views expressed by the Dáil and the Seanad in 2014, we have discussed here in the Oireachtas the question of whether the formal recognition of Palestine, in advance of its full achievement on the ground, would be a helpful step in advancing a resolution of the Israel- Palestine conflict.
One of the many factors bearing on this question is the importance of assessing whether recognition now would positively affect the peace process or merely be viewed as a symbolic gesture, swiftly overtaken and surpassed by events on the ground. Recognition by Ireland outside the context of an overall peace agreement would also undoubtedly affect Ireland’s ongoing influence on the Middle East Peace Process at EU and international level, and it is imperative that such a step would not diminish Ireland’s impact without delivering a commensurate benefit for the Palestinian people.
I have stated that I will be ready to recommend immediate recognition to the Government, if and when I believe it would be helpful in achieving our objective of a free and sovereign Palestinian State, or advancing the peace process in that direction. I have taken a conscious decision not to recommend recognition at this time, as I am aware of how it would negatively impact on the good access we have had to date with all parties, and on our capacity to influence the situation. I would ask the Deputy to trust my judgement, given my personal commitment on this issue.