Clarifying Settlement Boycott Bill, Irish Envoy Tells Israel Its Government Opposes BDS

Irish ambassador says independent representatives behind bill to boycott products from West Bank settlements, Foreign Ministry statement says

Parliament Buildings on the Stormont Estate, the seat of the Northern Ireland assembly, in Belfast on January 24, 2018.

Irish ambassador to Israel Alison Kelly said Wednesday that a recent bill in Ireland calling for a boycott of Israeli settlements in the West Bank was raised by independent representatives in the senate, and that the Irish government opposes it. 

According to the Foreign Ministry, which summond her over the bill, she added that the legislation was not linked to the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement,  that Ireland's government does oppose BDS. The ambassador was summoned by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to clarify the legislative iniative. 

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Rodica Radian-Gordon, the ministry's deputy director general for Western Europe, emphasized firm opposition to the legal initiative and said that any law to boycott settlements is BDS. She requested from the embassy to bring that message to Irish authorities.

On Tuesday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu condemned new legislation in Ireland that could forbid the import and sale of products from Israeli settlements, instructing the foreign ministry to summon Ireland's ambassador to express disatisfaction and clarify the matter.

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The Danish ambassador to Israel was also summoned to the Foreign Ministry on a similar matter this week. All told, three European ambassadors to Israel were summoned to the Foreign Ministry for clarifications this week: Those from Poland, Denmark and Ireland.  

The Irish senate debated the bill on Tuesday. Beyond outlawing the import or sale of such products, it would also ban services originating from the occupied territories.

The senate decided that debates regarding the bill will be formally adjourned until July. "This will allow the Irish government five months to progress a diplomatic approach and action at European Union level. It also gives more time for improvements, amendments and changes to the bill," people involved in the matter told Haaretz.

A group of Israeli activists, among them former members of Knesset, legal experts, ex-ambassadors, artists and academics, sent a written petition to the Irish parliament, asking it to support the bill.

In his statement, Netanyahu said that the initiative gives backing to those who seek to boycott Israel and completely contravenes the guiding principles of free trade and justice.

Israelis voice support

A group of Israeli activists, among them former members of Knesset, legal experts, ex-ambassadors, artists and academics, sent a written petition to the Irish parliament, asking it to support a bill that forbids the sale and export of products from Israeli settlements.

“We, concerned citizens of Israel, ... urge Ireland to support any legislation that will help enforce differentiation between Israel per se and the settlements in the occupied territories of the West Bank and East Jerusalem,” read the letter, which was published in The Irish Times. “The Israeli occupation of the territories beyond the 1967 borders, ongoing for more than 50 years with no end in sight, is not only unjust but also stands in violation of numerous UN resolutions.”

The letter ends, “As people who care deeply for Israel’s future and long for our country to live in peace with its neighbors, we urge you to support the aforementioned Bill.”

Former lawmaker Uri Avnery topped the list of signatories, which included former ambassadors Elie Barnavi, Ilan Baruch and Alon Liel; former Attorney General Michael Ben-Yair; former MKs Roman Bronfman, Avraham Burg, Naomi Chazan, Tzali Reshef and Yael Dayan; and artists Dani Karavan, Alex Levac, David Tartakover and Miki Kratsman.

The bill references the Fourth Geneva Convention and calls "to make it an offence for a person to import or sell goods or services originating in an occupied territory or to extract resources from an occupied territory in certain circumstances."

The bill would not only apply to Israeli settlements, but to all illegal settlements around the world. It would therefore theoretically pertain to Western Sahara, northern Cyprus and Crimea.