Ireland's position on settlement expansion, related infrastructure development, the demolition of Palestinian homes and other buildings, and the forced removal of Palestinians from their homes, is extremely clear. Settlements are illegal under international law, and all actions which compromise the viability of a future Palestinian state are very damaging. Such unilateral actions further diminish the prospects for successful negotiations and an end to the conflict, something which I firmly believe is in the best interests of both Israelis and Palestinians.
Last week I made my fourth visit to Israel and Palestine as Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade. I held meetings with a range of senior political figures, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Foreign Minister Israel Katz. I very clearly conveyed Ireland’s unequivocal position on the illegality of settlements and on the harmful effects of settlement expansion. I also discussed settlement activity in my meetings with Palestinian leaders, including President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Mohammed Shtayyeh.
I am aware of the reports to which the Deputy refers, on plans for new settlement construction in Hebron. Any further settlement expansion in Hebron would be deeply regrettable, and would be likely to accentuate tensions in an already fragile situation. This is particularly the case following the Israeli Government’s decision earlier this year not to renew the mandate of the Temporary International Presence in Hebron, which had played an important role in preventing violence.
Ireland will continue to convey our concerns on related developments on the ground in all relevant international fora, as well as directly with the Israeli authorities. Ireland and the EU stand by the internationally agreed parameters for a negotiated peace agreement and continue to urge the Israeli Government to uphold its international legal obligations, including under the Fourth Geneva Convention, on the treatment of a civilian population.