The Irish Senate has voted to approve a bill that would see the country boycott goods from illegal Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank, paving the way for the country to become the first EU nation to enforce a boycott.
The bill passed yesterday with 25 lawmakers voting in its favour, with 20 against it and 14 others abstaining. The legislation would bar "the import and sales of goods, services and natural resources originating in illegal settlements in occupied territories", but still needs to pass in both houses of parliament before becoming law.
At Israel's urging, the Irish government requested in January that the vote be postponed, and sought to soften the language of the bill, but was unable to come to a compromise. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu summoned Irish Ambassador Alison Kelly in response, arguing that a bill to boycott settlement produce could easily expand into support of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement.
Yesterday's bill passed primarily due to votes from opposition and independent legislators. It had originally been proposed by independent Senator Frances Black who spoke before the vote and brought Palestinian farmers to be present in the Seanad for the occasion.
In the occupied territories, people are forcibly kicked out of their homes, fertile farming land is seized, and the fruit and vegetables produced are then sold on Irish shelves to pay for it all. These settlements are war crimes, and it's time for Ireland to show some leadership and refuse to support them.
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However, the bill lacks support from the incumbent party of government Fine Gael, with Irish Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade Simon Coveney claiming that the ban was logistically impossible due to Ireland's trade ties as part of the EU.
Whilst estimates put the value of settlement-made exports to Ireland at between only $580,000 to $1.1 million annually, advocates say the bill could encourage other European states to join the boycott.
Israel's Foreign Ministry has slammed the decision stating that the "Irish Senate has given its support to a populist, dangerous and extremist anti-Israel boycott initiative that hurts the chances of dialogue between Israel and the Palestinians."
The Israeli embassy in Ireland had also claimed last week that a draft bill calling for a ban on the sale of goods made in illegal Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestinian territory would "empower terrorists". It added that such bills "further the divisions between Israel and the Palestinians", without clarifying what this precisely meant.
Senior Palestinian negotiator Saed Erekat praised and thanked Ireland for backing the decision: "Today the Irish Seanad has sent a clear message to the international community and particularly to the rest of the European Union: the mere talking about the two-state solution is not enough without taking concrete measures."
"I would like to make use of this occasion to thank everyone that was involved in the approval of this law, from political parties to Palestinian and Irish civil society, and particularly to Senator Frances Black for her courage to introduce this motion that advances the cause of justice in Palestine," he concluded.
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