Irish Foreign Affairs and Trade Minister Simon Coveney is currently visiting Israel, the Gaza Strip and the West Bank to launch a project on Tuesday to fund Palestinian initiatives in the solar and water sectors.
Ireland will fund the construction of a 7.5MW solar power plant providing clean, reliable energy to the NGEST wastewater treatment plant in Northern Gaza, in partnership with the French Development Agency, said a statement by Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade Tuesday.
"Many of these solar panels will stand in land previously designated as off-limits by the Israeli authorities," said Minister Mazen Ghunaim Tuesday in the strip. "We know that only a political solution can lead to real development in Gaza."
He added, "we need to see an end to the blockade of Gaza, an end to the cycle of conflict, and an end to the political division between Gaza and the West Bank."
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However, a statement released by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office stated that the pair discussed “regional issues and threats to the State of Israel, especially the Iranian threat” during their meeting on Monday night in Jerusalem.
The meeting also discussed “recent developments vis-à-vis the Gaza Strip,” the statement added.
“I will use this opportunity to discuss how Ireland can support efforts towards a sustainable two state solution to the conflict,” said Minister Coveney before leaving Ireland, “and to convey clearly and firmly Ireland’s concerns about the impact of the occupation, including in relation to settlement activity and the blockade of Gaza.”
On Monday morning, Coveney said Ireland “will continue to advocate for new thinking, because I think a solution now is probably not the same as what a solution looked like twenty years ago" during an interview with Israeli public broadcaster Kan.
But “every solution must be consensual and non-coercive on the Palestinians, and based on the two-state solution,” he added, commenting on Netanyahu’s campaign promise to annex the Jordan Valley. Coveney also took an implicit dig at the Trump administration’s Mideast peace deal, stating that “mere economic investment will not resolve the conflict.”
Coveney said that although his government had effectively frozen the advancement of a bill calling for a boycott of products made in Israeli settlement in the West Bank, it reflected Irish lawmakers’ “dissatisfaction with the progress in Israel-Palestinian negotiations.” Parliamentarians, though, deny that the legislation has been stopped, saying instead that it is on course to advance.
The bill, which was introduced last year, would prohibit the importation and sale of products and services “originating from illegal settlements in the occupied territories.” The legislation sparked condemnation from the Israeli government - Ireland’s ambassador, Alison Kelly, was even summoned to the foreign ministry, then headed by Benjamin Netanyahu, for clarification.
Under pressure from Israel, the Irish government, which fears it might lose influence in the Middle-East, has sought to soften the wording, until now with little success.
This is Coveney’s fourth trip to Israel and the territories, with the avowed aim to continue to put Dublin in an intermediary position between Israelis and Palestinians.