Israeli Parliamentary Delegation to Ireland Called Off Over Settlement Boycott Bill

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Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein
Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein Credit: Ytizhak Harari/Knesset Spokesman's Office

A visit by a delegation of Israeli lawmakers to the Irish parliament has been called off by Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein, in rebuke of the Irish parliament's advancement of a bill to ban imports of West Bank settlement products.

Announcing his decision to call off the trip, Edelstein dubbed the Irish legislation "hypocrisy at its best" in a statement on Tuesday.

MKs were scheduled to meet Sean Fearghail, chairman of the Dail, Ireland's lower house of parliament, in March. Edelstein said he informed his Irish counterpart of the cancelation "due to the advancement of the shameful law to boycott products from Judea, Samaria and the Golan," referring to the biblical name of the West Bank and to the Golan Heights, annexed by Israel after the 1967 Six-Day War.

"Ireland is obsessively preoccupied with Israel, but remains silent on the horrors that flood the neighboring countries of the Middle East on a daily basis," the Knesset speaker said.

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The Israeli Foreign Ministry summoned Irish ambassador Alison Kelly last week for "an angry rebuke" over the "hypocritical and anti-Semitic" legislation, which it said would have "severe ramification" on mutual relations if adopted.

In a statement, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said last week that "Israel is outraged over the legislation against it in the Dail which is indicative of hypocrisy and anti-Semitism. Instead of Ireland condemning Syria for slaughtering hundreds of thousands of civilians, Turkey for the occupation of northern Cyprus and the terrorist organizations for murdering thousands of Israelis, it attacks Israel, the only democracy in the Middle East. What a disgrace."

The bill, which is sponsored by independent Senator Frances Black and envisions prison terms and high fines for Irish businesses trading in goods originating in Israeli settlements, was advanced in Ireland's lower house of parliament on Thursday. It will now go back to Ireland's lower house for a final vote.

In November, the Irish Senate approved another stage in the legislation, after a preliminary approval in July.

The bill prohibits the sale and import of products and raw materials from "occupied territories," and calls for a fine of up to 250,000 euros ($285,000) or up to five years in prison in the case of a conviction. The status of the territories must have been confirmed by the United Nations International Court of Justice in The Hague, according to the draft.

The EU in 2015 issued guidelines on labelling settlement products, but if the bill becomes law, Ireland would become the first European country to ban them. The law, however, could be challenged at the European Court of Justice.

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