Ireland’s Government Inches Closer to Recognition of a Palestinian State

Middle East Conflicts - May 22, 2024

As the war between Israel and Hamas continues the anti Israeli sentiment in Irish Government and opposition circles and across wider civic society is deepening. Even before the invasion in October and Jerusalem’s response relations between the Republic of Ireland and Israel had been tetchy for sometime. It is long running joke that when a new ambassador is posted to Dublin the first question everyone wants answered is what they are being punished for by being sent here.

Micheal Martin leader of Fianna Fail and deputy prime minister or Tainiste has confirmed that Ireland is going to go ahead with its plan to intervene in the case being taken by South Africa against Israel under the Genocide Convention at the International Court of Justice. South Africa has levelled charges of genocide in Gaza against Israel and is demanding a cessation of operations and withdrawal from the territories. It is expected that the trial will takes some years to reach a conclusion.

The commentary from Germany in the first failed passage of South Africa’s attempt to get the court to demand a cessation of violence is rather different. Steffen Hebestreit German government spokesman said “…the German government decisively and expressly rejects the accusation of genocide brought against Israel before the International Court of Justice, the accusation has no basis in fact,” The French foreign minister speaking to the lower house last January stated that to accuse Israel of genocide is to cross a moral threshold “The notion of genocide cannot be exploited for political ends. This has always been our position.” The opinion of the United States has been clear since the initiation of proceedings with the Secretary of State Anthony J Blinken describing the case as “meritless”.

In another gesture of support for the Palestinian cause on April 9th in the Dail Michael Martin announced his intention to bring to government a proposal to recognise Palestine as a State. “For the past six months I have maintained ongoing discussions with ministerial colleagues in other countries about how a joint formal recognition of Palestinian statehood could be a catalyst to help the people of Gaza and the West Bank and in furthering an Arab led peace initiative,” Mr Martin said. The recognition would occur in the context of peace talks “But be in no doubt recognition of a Palestinian State will happen.”

The new leader of Fine Gael and Prime Minister or Taoiseach Simon Harris had made clear his intention to push the case for a Palestinian State in his first meetings with the commission and other EU leaders. After bilateral talks with the Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez, Harris said that recognition of Palestinian statehood “is coming much closer”. While it seems that such a move would garner the support of Malta Slovenia and Belgium the position of France Germany and Italy remains that such recognition is contingent on a two state solution which would have to involve the clear recognition by all parties of the right of Israel to exist.

In an article written in the Irish Times Dana Erlich Israel’s ambassador to Ireland wrote “A unilateral recognition of a Palestinian State at this point sends a dangerous signal to Ha mas and its supporters, since it will be viewed as rewarding terrorism. Any future workable agreement or resolution to the wider conflict is one that must be arrived at by the parties to it, and should be addressed separately from the current war” In the same piece she regretted that her invitation to attend the Fine Gael annual party conference had been withdrawn. Earlier the Leader of Fianna Fail had announced that neither the Russian ambassador nor the Israeli representative would be invited to the Fianna Fail conference seeming to draw a moral parallel between Israeli actions in Gaza and the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

One ambassador who did get an invite to an Ard Fheis was Dr Jilan Wahba Abdalmajid the Palestinian ambassador to Ireland who received a standing ovation at the Sinn Fein party conference. The Leader of Sinn Fein the main opposition party in the Irish parliament and a potential Prime Minister after the next general election has called for the Israeli ambassador to be expelled and for Israel to be referred to the International Criminal Court. However the other parties in the Dail may position themselves on the Israel Palestine conflict Sinn Fein have a great deal of moral clarity on the subject. In 2017 the then spokesman on international affairs and human rights Aengus O Snodaigh described Israel as “one of the most abhorrent and despicable regimes on the planet.”. This from a party with warm feelings of regard for Hugo Chavez and his successor Maduro.

It should not be any surprise that Sinn Fein has warm fraternal feelings for the Palestinian cause as for many years it was the political wing of the IRA, part of the “Armalite in one hand and the ballot box in the other” strategy. The PLO and the IRA along with a plethora of other terror groups across Europe in the 1970s received from the then Libyan dictator Gaddafi. In the early 1970s Fatah provided the IRA and the INLA with arms and terror training in Lebanon and Libya. Whereas an earlier generation of Irish republicans had seen parallels with the Israeli struggle for a homeland and their conflict with the British forces today Israeli is seen as the colonial oppressor and Zionism once praise is now an “obnoxious phenomenon”

The very much not republican but very progressive party the Social Democrats have found themselves mire in controversy as they have deselected a candidate who had been due to represent then in the upcoming local elections in affluent and liberal Dublin suburb of Dun Laoghaire. Orli Degani, a businesswoman slated to represent the party in Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown, expressed shock at her dismissal but is determined to continue her candidacy as an independent. The party removed Degani from the candidacy roster recently following concerns raised internally, leading to her removal from their website as well. However, Degani alleges that her deselection stems from her raising concerns about statements made by the Social Democrats that she fears could adversely affect Israeli or Jewish communities in Ireland. She said “..I was de-selected, for reasons which are an affront to the values of equality and inclusivity I have come to know since immigrating to these shores. …I am a German Jew with Israeli citizenship, and when I decided to run for local government, I did so because I wanted to give back to the community that accepted me and my family with open arms, and I chose to do so within a party that I thought shared the same values of inclusion, acceptance, and support.”

No serious or informed person could reflect on the conflict and see it simply as good and bad, black and white. For any that are not full throated in condemnation of Israel’s response to the Hamas massacre however the reportage in the print and broadcast media has been a touch monochromatic. Alan Shatter commented recently on X “I’m a former Defence Minister, Foreign Affairs Committee chair, expert on Israel/Palestinian conflict, author of regular op-eds on it and relevant academic articles, have met many Israeli & Palestinian leaders, the last Jewish TD but not interviewed by RTE on current war since its start. Why?”