I wish to begin by expressing my profound shock at the scale of casualties inflicted by Israeli forces on Palestinian demonstrators yesterday. Even if some demonstrators yesterday were using violence, there is no indication of anything which could possibly have justified this scale of shootings by Israeli troops, and many specific attested shootings were clearly indefensible. This has to stop. I call on Israel specifically to rein in its forces, and on all those who have influence with Israel to use that influence to this effect.
This morning I summoned the Israeli ambassador to Iveagh House and made these points to him in the strongest terms. These dreadful events tragically underline my view that the Israel-Palestine peace process and the situation in Gaza cannot just be left to fester until a better day comes. They must be addressed urgently, or we will only see more days like this.
As to the Deputy’s question about action at EU level, EU and international attention on the Israel-Palestine issue has naturally prioritised efforts to resume political negotiations, as the only way to bring the occupation to an end.
Ireland has worked also to maintain a focus on the justice and human rights issues affecting Palestinians on the ground, and to promote practical efforts to assist them. This relates notably to Israeli settlements and related land seizures, movement restrictions, evictions, deportations and suppression of protests. These are closing - literally - the political and physical space where a peace agreement might be built.
The EU has taken a number of actions in regard to settlements and their products, which we have discussed here. We are continuing to look at other possible actions, although it has to be said it has become difficult to achieve agreement at EU level on any such measures at present.
Accordingly, we have also explored actions with like-minded partners. Last year Ireland joined the West Bank Protection Consortium, a group of countries which seek to act together on land issues particularly. I am also working with some partners on specific project ideas to help ease the blockade of Gaza.
Ireland also funds a number of Israeli, Palestinian and international NGOs active in combatting unjust occupation policies and taking legal cases.