I propose to take Questions Nos. 29, 38 and 41 together.
A new Israeli Government was sworn in on 17 May, and of course I wish it well in these very difficult circumstances, as it takes on the challenge of combatting COVID-19. I take note, however, of comments made by Prime Minister Netanyahu in the Knesset on 17 May, regarding the annexation of territory in the West Bank, which is part of the occupied Palestinian territory, as well as the provisions on annexation in the political agreement reached during coalition negotiations in Israel.
As I stated publicly on 23 April: "I think it important, as a friend and partner of Israel, to be very clear about the gravity of any such step. Annexation of territory by force is prohibited under international law, including the UN Charter, whenever and wherever it occurs, in Europe’s neighbourhood or globally. This is a fundamental principle in the relations of states and the rule of law in the modern world. No one state can set it aside at will.
Ireland remains committed to a negotiated two-state solution that ends the occupation that began in 1967, with Jerusalem as the capital of both States, on the basis of international law, the internationally-agreed parameters and relevant UN Security Council Resolutions. This accords with the European Union’s long-standing position. We firmly believe that this is the only outcome which will provide long term security, freedom and prosperity to both peoples."
The unilateral annexation by Israel of any part of the occupied Palestinian territory would have no legitimacy, and would not be recognised or accepted by Ireland or the international community more generally. I have in the past made my views on this clear to Israeli leaders, including during my most recent visit to Israel in December 2019. My officials continue to convey our views to the Israeli authorities at appropriate opportunities.
The Middle East Peace Process, including the issue of annexation, was discussed at the 15 May videoconference meeting of EU Foreign Ministers. In advance of that meeting, I and senior officials in my Department discussed the issue with a large number of EU Member States to encourage a clear and united position.
During the VC discussion, the strong view expressed was that annexation was completely unacceptable and, if implemented, would be a grave violation of international law. This is not just a principle that applies to Israel and Palestine but one which is global. I, and many other Ministers, emphasised the need for EU action to deter such a damaging unilateral action, which would inevitably have negative consequences for the EU-Israel relationship. There was broad agreement that the EU and its MS need to engage in outreach with the new Israeli Government and make clear our deep concerns.
I welcome the very clear statements that have been made on this matter in recent weeks by EU High Representative/Vice President Josep Borrell, who has said that any annexation would constitute a serious violation of international law that could not pass unchallenged.
I will continue to prioritise this issue, working closely with EU partners and countries in the region.