Ireland has always consistently worked to maintain an EU and international focus on the justice and human rights issues affecting Palestinians on the ground. This relates notably, but not solely, to the Israeli settlement enterprise and the web of policies which support it. These include land seizures, movement restrictions, evictions, deportations and the increasing use of force to suppress protests. These are not just evident injustices, but also act inexorably to make a political agreement more difficult, and to close – literally – the political and physical space where it might be built.
Among EU actions taken in this regard are measures on labelling of settlement products, exclusion of settlements from access to EU research grants, and non-acceptance of Israeli certification for some settlement products. We continue to look at other possible actions, but it is difficult to reach consensus in the EU on such measures at present.
Accordingly, we have also explored actions with like-minded partners. Last June I signed papers for Ireland to join the West Bank Protection Consortium, a group of countries which act together on land issues. In November members of the Consortium for the first time presented Israel with a demand for compensation for humanitarian relief seized or destroyed in the West Bank.
The EU and its Member States are major financial supporters of the Palestinian Authority, whose education system Ireland directly supports. We also support the Palestinian people more broadly, through humanitarian support to UNRWA and other agencies. I believe Palestinians recognise this support, and are generally ready to consult and discuss with the EU on many issues, although of course policies and decisions remain their own. I believe that the EU has an important role to play on the Middle East Peace Process, and I have worked at the Foreign Affairs Council to promote discussion of what we can contribute. The urgency of this work is further underlined by the appalling loss of life in Gaza yesterday and over recent weeks.