Israel fumes as Irish Senate advances bill outlawing settlement trade

Foreign Ministry slams ‘most extreme anti-Israel piece of legislation in Europe,’ though it still has to clear several hurdles to become law

Raphael Ahren is the diplomatic correspondent at The Times of Israel.

Palestinian workers on November 11, 2015, at a date packaging factory in the Jordan Valley in the West Bank. This produce will be labeled if exported to the EU as 'Product of the West Bank (Israeli settlement' (Melanie Lidman/Times of Israel)
Palestinian workers on November 11, 2015, at a date packaging factory in the Jordan Valley in the West Bank. This produce will be labeled if exported to the EU as 'Product of the West Bank (Israeli settlement' (Melanie Lidman/Times of Israel)

The upper house of Ireland’s parliament on Wednesday passed a bill to criminalize importing or selling goods produced in Israeli towns in the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights.

After advancing through several debates, the Control of Economic Activities (Occupied Territories) Bill 2018 now moves to the lower house, known as the Dáil Éireann, where it will have to pass an additional five rounds of debates before the president would sign it into law.

“Incredible — the Occupied Territories Bill has just passed all stages in Seanad Éireann! Ireland can be the first EU country to end trade in illegal #SettlementGoods,” the sponsor of the bill, Independent Senator Frances Black, tweeted minutes after the vote.

“It now goes to Dáil for agreement, & with such huge support we’ll make this vital bill law!”

Senator Frances Black at an Irish Senate discussion of her bill to ban settlement goods, November 28, 2018 (screen shot Irish Senate)

Foreign Ministry spokesperson Emmanuel Nahshon replied by calling the measure hateful and unhelpful.

“Truly incredible — the Irish Senate just approved a hateful boycott initiative against a friendly nation,” he tweeted at Black. “This will not help the Palestinians and just push their leadership further away from negotiations.”

In a formal response to the vote, the Foreign Ministry stated: “The Irish Senate (Seanad Éireann) have chosen to give their backing to the most extreme anti-Israel piece of legislation in Europe. This bill will not help a single Palestinian and is aimed at negating the historical connection between the people of Israel and the birthplace of the Jewish people.”

The proposed legislation — a private member bill — declares it an offense “for a person to import or attempt to import settlement goods.”

Likewise, those who “assist another person to import or attempt to import settlement goods” would be committing a crime punishable by up to five years in prison, if the bill were to become law.

“The bill seeks to prohibit the import and sale of goods, services and natural resources originating in illegal settlements in occupied territories,” Black said in a statement posted to her website on June 25.

“Such settlements are illegal under both international humanitarian law and domestic Irish law, and result in human rights violations on the ground. Despite this, Ireland provides continued economic support through trade in settlement goods.”

Two Palestinian woman pack dates at a packing plant on November 11, 2015 in the Jordan Valley region of the West Bank. (Melanie Lidman/Times of Israel)

While the bill does not mention Israel and the Palestinian territories, critics have charged that it appears to have been written exclusively with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in mind.

“This is a bill which selectively uses international courts’ decisions to discriminate solely against Israel and exclude all other cases of disputed territories,” the Foreign Ministry charged Wednesday.

“It is a dangerous piece of legislation as it gives the Palestinians the illusion that external coercion can actually replace negotiations. It encourages Palestinians to continue supporting terrorism instead of engaging in direct negotiations.”

If passed into the law, the bill would be “counter-productive, as it seeks to close doors for Israelis but will only succeed to close the door on any future input that Ireland could have in a peace process in the Middle East,” the statement continued

However, in private conversations, Israeli officials appeared unperturbed by the legislation, estimating that the government in Dublin will ultimately prevent it from coming into force, even, if need be, blocking it technically from advancing.

The bill was supported by all opposition parties and independent senators, but was opposed by Ireland’s minority government. The government argues that banning trade with certain products is the exclusive prerogative of the European Union.

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