I propose to take Questions Nos. 144 and 146 together.
I have given a high priority to the Middle East Peace Process since my appointment as Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade in 2017, and I continue to do so as Minister for Foreign Affairs and Minister for Defence in the current Government. I have made four working visits to Israel and Palestine, most recently in December 2019.
The Programme for Government states that the Government will “continue to work with other Member States to give leadership within the EU to oppose any annexation or plans to apply Israeli sovereignty over territory in the West Bank, which is part of the occupied Palestinian territory. The Government would regard any such moves as a breach of international law and would consider an appropriate response to them at both national and international level.”
Israel’s announcement that it will suspend plans to annex parts of the occupied Palestinian territory is welcome. High Representative / Vice President Josep Borrell also welcomed the announcement on behalf of the EU in a Declaration on 15 August. I have noted with concern, however, subsequent Israeli statements that annexation plans remain on the table and call for any such plans to be permanently withdrawn.
The unilateral annexation by Israel of any part of the occupied Palestinian territory would be a clear violation of international law. It would have no legitimacy, and would not be recognised or accepted by Ireland, or by the international community more generally, and would be deeply damaging to the two-state solution.
I have been forthright in my public statements on the issue of annexation. I have also raised this matter directly and clearly with Israeli leaders in person, including during my visit to the region last December and in telephone and VC conversations with Israeli FM Gabi Ashkenazi in recent months. I have also outlined my concerns about possible annexation in discussions with US representatives.
I have engaged extensively with European partners, with a view to encouraging strong EU messages, public and private, against such an action. When this was discussed at the 15 May video conference meeting of EU Foreign Ministers, there was broad agreement that the EU and its Member States should convey our concerns directly to the new Israeli Government. That outreach continued throughout the summer. Most recently, EU Foreign Ministers participated in a discussion with the Israeli Foreign Minister during an informal session of the Foreign Affairs Council on 27 August. The EU’s firm commitment to a Two State solution to the conflict was conveyed to the Israeli Foreign Minister, in addition to the EU’s welcoming of Israel’s suspension of annexation plans.
Ireland remains ready to support any peace initiative that respects the international parameters for a Two State solution and relevant UN Security Council Resolutions, and provides a basis to meet the aspirations of both peoples. I will continue to work to keep this issue high on the international agenda and to prioritise the Middle East Peace Process, amongst other issues, as we prepare to take up our seat on the UN Security Council in January 2021.