Ireland’s parliament has passed a motion describing Israeli settlements and other policies in the 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 Hamas terror group ruling Gaza agreed to an informal ceasefire ending an 11-day war.
The conflict began with Hamas firing rockets at Jerusalem, citing unrest at the Temple Mount and the pending evictions of several Palestinian families from East Jerusalem’s Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood.
Israel retaliated with airstrikes and the conflict escalated as Hamas bombarded Israeli communities and cities with rockets and Israel carried out hundreds of retaliatory airstrikes on targets in the Strip. Some 250 Palestinians were killed in Gaza, over 60 of them minors; Israel asserts some 200 were terror operatives. Twelve people were killed in Israel, all but one of them civilians, including a 5-year-old boy and a 16-year-old girl.
Israel captured East Jerusalem, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip in 1967’s Six Day 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.
Israeli Jews view the West Bank as the historical and biblical heartland of the Jewish people. Some believe it should be handed over to the Palestinians as part of a future peace deal, but many fear that it, like Gaza before it, could turn into a haven and launchpad for terrorist activity against Israel.
Plans by the Netanyahu government last year to formally annex up to a third of the West Bank were put on hold as part of a US-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.”
Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.