Wednesday, 10 November 2021

Questions (124)

Seán Haughey


124. Deputy Seán Haughey asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if he will report on his recent visit to Palestine and Israel; if he will provide details of the issues he addressed during his visit including the organisations and persons he met there; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [54932/21]

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Written answers (Question to Foreign)

I undertook a working visit to Israel, the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt) and Jordan from 1-5 November 2021.

This was my fifth visit to Israel and the oPt as Foreign Minister and my first visit during Ireland’s tenure on the UN Security Council. I had useful exchanges on situations of concern to Israel, Palestine and Jordan in the wider Middle East region, including in relation to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the situation in Lebanon, Syria, Yemen and on Ireland’s role as facilitator of the UN Security Council Resolution on the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). I also discussed Ireland’s thematic priorities on the Council, including on the women, peace and security agenda and on climate and security issues.

The Israeli and Palestinian component of this visit included a wide range of engagements in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and Ramallah as well as a field visit in the West Bank. I met with key representatives of the Government of Israel and the Palestinian Authority, as well officials from UN agencies, think-tanks, student groups and civil society.

On the Israeli side, I met with President Isaac Herzog, Foreign Minister Yair Lapid, and Minister of Health Nitzan Horowitz. I had useful exchanges on a range of issues, including the issue of antisemitism and the response to Covid-19. In relation to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, I restated Ireland’s commitment to constructive engagement on the Middle East Peace Process. I welcomed the outreach by members of the new Israeli Government with their Palestinian counterparts but underlined Ireland’s deep concern at settlement expansion, demolitions and evictions in the oPt. I asked the Israeli government to cease unilateral actions, such as the recent announcement on settlements, which are illegal under international law and negatively impact the viability of a future Palestinian state. I emphasised the importance of civil society space and the vital role played by NGOs in any democracy, and expressed my concern at the recent designation of six Palestinian organisations as terrorist entities.

On the Palestinian side, I met with Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh, and Deputy Prime Minister Ziad Abu Amr. I emphasised the need for democratic renewal in Palestine, particularly in light of the postponement of the May elections and underlined the importance of the PA assuming its responsibilities with regard to the rule of law, freedom of expression and civil society engagement.

During my visit I announced €2.4 million in additional support for the Palestinian people. The package includes €2 million for UNRWA, which provides essential services to 5.7 million Palestine refugees in the oPt, Lebanon, Jordan and Syria, and brings Ireland’s support to the agency to €9 million in 2021. The remainder of the funding will support the UN in providing humanitarian assistance in the oPt, UNICEF’s work with Palestinian children and the West Bank Protection Consortium’s activities with threatened communities in the West Bank.

I visited communities in the West Bank, accompanied by officials from the UN and the West Bank Protection Consortium, where I saw first-hand the impact that the expansion of illegal Israeli settlements are having on the local Palestinian population. I also met with young Palestinian graduates from Ireland’s Palestine Scholarship Programme.

During my visit to Amman, I had the opportunity to have wide ranging discussions with the Jordanian Foreign Minister, Deputy Prime Minister Ayman Safadi, including in relation to the Middle East Peace Process.