Tuesday, 11 May 2021

Questions (48)

Brendan Howlin


48. Deputy Brendan Howlin asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if his attention has been drawn to the situation in the area Sheikh Jarrah used to resettle expelled Palestinian refugees in 1956, that 28 Palestinian families long promised legal titles to their homes are now the target of eviction proceedings by the Israeli authorities and new settlers there; the action he has taken at EU and UN level to highlight this injustice; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23901/21]

View answer

Oral answers (6 contributions) (Question to Foreign)

How are the Minister and the Government addressing the completely unacceptable situation in Sheikh Jarrah, East Jerusalem, where mass evictions and dispossession of Palestinians is ongoing contrary to international law? Since I tabled the question, of course, matters have taken a most dangerous and appalling course, making the Minister's response all the more urgent.

I am deeply concerned by the escalation of violence in Jerusalem in recent days, the launching of rockets from Gaza and the actions of the Israeli defence forces. Many were shocked at reports of 24 Palestinians being killed last night, including nine children. I believe those figures are now higher. The latest figures, which I received a number of hours ago, were that 28 people were killed, ten of whom were children. I also mention the launching of a rocket from Gaza at a school in southern Israel this morning, and at a residential area this afternoon in which two Israelis were killed. I also understand that in the past hour, quite a number of other Israelis, including possibly a child, have been killed from rocket fire.

I met the Israeli ambassador this afternoon to convey Ireland's position on this and recent tensions and violence. I underlined the need for the Israeli authorities to behave responsibly and protect all civilians in line with their obligations under international law.

Provocations and clashes in East Jerusalem, which led to many being injured at the holy site of Haram al-Sharif, or Temple Mount, are deeply worrying. In my view, the approach of the Israeli authorities and security forces was not acceptable in that context.

On the question of Sheikh Jarrah, I am aware of the long-standing threat of eviction faced by Palestinian residents in this neighbourhood. I have urged Israel to cease evictions and demolitions. Yesterday at the EU Foreign Affairs Council, I highlighted the issues surrounding illegal settlements, including evictions and seizures of property, which are a major driver of genuine conflict and an obstacle to peace. This morning, Ireland's representative office in Ramallah visited the site along with other diplomatic representatives. Irish officials continue to closely monitor the situation with concern.

We are now witnessing the worst unrest in years. It is escalating further with the Israeli Prime Minister threatening ongoing and deepening air raids in Gaza and scores of rockets been now been launched by Hamas on Jerusalem itself, both shocking and appalling actions.

There is a root cause, however. I listened to the Israeli ambassador to Britain last night being unable to say that her government is in favour of a two-state solution. We need to get back to the root cause, which is the respect of fundamental rights for Palestinians, that the rule of law applies internationally and that people with legitimate tenancy and rights of tenure are allowed to live where they have lived for decades and not be faced with forced evictions. We now need a concerted effort by Ireland leading in the UN to resolve these matters.

I agree with the Deputy. Believe me when I say that Ireland is very involved in the UN Security Council in these matters. Ireland co-sponsored an emergency discussion at the council yesterday when the situation was not as dramatic as it is now. Ireland is working this evening as we speak. I spoke to our representative in New York who heads our Security Council team, which is speaking to other countries right now regarding how the council may be able to respond more directly and more successfully to what is clearly an increasing spiral of violence between Israelis and Palestinians. Yesterday at the Security Council, Ireland underlined that Israeli actions in East Jerusalem and at the Al-Aqsa compound were not acceptable and seen by many as provocative, and of course, continued to call on Israel to comply with international law.

I thank the Minister for the reply. We really need to be proactive on this because the Irish people have very clear views. Stun grenades in the Al-Aqsa mosque were a provocation that was obviously going to have a reaction. There must be a consequence to all this, however. Repeatedly, violations of human rights, suppression of rights and the killing of children seem to have nothing other than international condemnation as a result. There is no consequence to this.

We must now resolve ourselves to be firm and clear that we will work with like-minded governments, not only in the EU but across the world, and perhaps, there will be a change of view in the new US administration, to try to advance the two-state solution, which will respect the rights of both communities and bring peace to this region once and for all.

I hope my position on this issue has been very consistent. We have and continue to advocate for a two-state solution on the basis of a negotiation where equality of esteem between both sides is respected. That certainly has not been the case in recent years.

I continue to be outspoken on the illegality of settlements in occupied territory and their expansion, the forced removal of Palestinians from their homes and the demolition of buildings. Of course, I also defend Israel's right to defend itself. We need to ensure, however, that if there is there is going to be a lasting peace between Israelis and Palestinians, it must be based on a political negotiation. I do not believe that anything except a two-state solution is a viable long-term solution in that context. The policy of continuing to aggressively expand settlements, particularly in the West Bank and in parts of East Jerusalem, is making that two-state solution more remote as a possibility in the context of the negotiations that are needed. I hope Ireland will be able to build a coalition of countries that can intervene in an appropriate way here, first and foremost, to stop the violence.