LONDON -- Ireland’s parliament has passed a motion describing Israeli settlements and other policies in the occupied West Bank as “de facto annexation’’ - some of the strongest language ever offered by a European Union nation on the issue.
The motion passed Wednesday by the Dail, the lower house of Ireland’s parliament, condemned the “recent and ongoing forced displacement of Palestinian communities in the occupied Palestinian territory.” Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney said the motion conveys Ireland's concern that Israel’s actions are undermining prospects for a two-state solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.
“We need to speak the truth,’’ Coveney tweeted Thursday. “The scale, pace & strategic nature of Israel’s actions on settlements, demolitions & evictions is de facto annexation.’’
Israel's Foreign Ministry rejected what it described as Ireland’s “outrageous and baseless” position on Israeli settlements. It said the parliamentary motion “constitutes a victory for extremist Palestinian factions."
Irish lawmakers approved the motion less than a week after Israel and the militant Hamas group ruling Gaza agreed to an informal cease-fire ending an 11-day war that left more than 250 people dead — the vast majority Palestinians.
Israel captured east Jerusalem, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip in a 1967 war, territories the Palestinians want for a future state. It withdrew soldiers and settlers from Gaza in 2005 but has consolidated its control over the West Bank, now home to nearly 500,000 Jewish settlers.
The Palestinians view the settlements as a violation of international law and a major obstacle to peace, a position with wide international support. There have been no substantive peace talks in more than a decade, leading the Palestinians and many rights groups to describe Israel's control of the West Bank as de facto annexation.
Israel views the West Bank as the historical and biblical heartland of the Jewish people. Plans to formally annex up to a third of the West Bank enjoyed wide support in Israel but were put on hold last year after a U.S.-brokered normalization agreement with the United Arab Emirates.
The Irish motion, put forward by the opposition party Sinn Fein, received cross-party support.
“Illegal land grabs, annexation of Palestinian land & homes has been called out by Dail (Parliament) in Dublin,’’ Sinn Fein leader Mary Lou McDonald said on Twitter. “The motion tabled by @sinnfeinireland & supported by all must mark new assertive, consistent confrontation of Israeli crimes against Palestine.”
In a separate development, Israel summoned the French ambassador Thursday to protest recent remarks by French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian in which he warned of “apartheid” if progress is not made on a two-state solution.
In an interview Sunday with France’s LCI television, Le Drian said the recent round of fighting “showed the urgency of finding a political process.”
“The risk of apartheid is strong if we continue to follow a logic of one state, or of status quo," he said, adding that the idea of a two-state solution "is starting to disappear.”
Israeli Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi said those remarks were “unacceptable and distort reality."
“Israel is a democratic country that upholds the rule of law, and I unequivocally reject any attempt to undermine these facts and the foundations of the State of Israel,” Ashkenazi said.
The Israeli human rights group B'Tselem and the New York-based Human Rights Watch each released reports earlier this year saying Israel was practicing apartheid in the occupied territories and within its own borders by systematically denying Palestinians equal rights. Israel rejected the characterizations and said it treats its Jewish and Arab citizens equally.