Top Irish diplomat scolds US envoy for feting Jerusalem as Israel’s capital
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Top Irish diplomat scolds US envoy for feting Jerusalem as Israel’s capital

David Friedman’s Hanukkah-themed tweet is ‘provocative and biased’ and unhelpful on the path to peace, Simon Coveney says

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

US Ambassador David Friedman, left, lighting a Hanukkah menorah, at the Sultan's Pool in Jerusalem, on December 3, 2018. (Matty Stern/ US Embassy)
US Ambassador David Friedman, left, lighting a Hanukkah menorah, at the Sultan's Pool in Jerusalem, on December 3, 2018. (Matty Stern/ US Embassy)

Ireland’s foreign minister rebuked the US ambassador to Israel for calling Jerusalem Israel’s “ancient and modern capital” Monday, saying such comments could prove unhelpful in the quest for Israeli-Palestinian peace.

Responding to a tweet in which US envoy David Friedman said that no resolution at the United Nations could change the fact that Jerusalem was and is Israel’s capital, Simon Coveney wrote: “U are working on a New Peace Initiative that we all hope will be fair, balanced and successful. But comments like this will be seen as provocative and biased. Not helpful in creating the necessary environment of compromise.”

He tagged the UN and UNRWA, the UN agency in charge of Palestinian refugees. The US administration this year cut all aid to UNRWA, leaving the body foundering.

Earlier on Monday, Friedman had posted on Twitter that “More than 2000 years ago, Jewish patriots (Maccabees) captured Jerusalem, purified the Holy Temple and rededicated it as a house of Jewish worship. The U.N. cant vote away the facts: Jerusalem is the ancient and modern capital of Israel. Happy Chanukah from this blessed city!”

The US is one of the few countries to recognize Israel’s claim to Jerusalem as its capital, in a move last year that drew wide international condemnation.

On Thursday, the UN General Assembly passed a series of pro-Palestinian resolutions that largely ignored the Jewish people’s ties to Jerusalem. Ireland voted in favor of the resolutions.

Dublin has long been one of Israel’s staunchest critics in Europe.

Last week, the upper house of Ireland’s parliament on Wednesday advanced legislation that would criminalize importing or selling goods produced in West Bank settlements.

On Wednesday, the Senate, known as the Seanad, will vote again on the legislation, likely passing it in the final stage, from where it will move to the lower house. In the so-called Dáil Éireann, the private member bill will have to pass five rounds of debates before the president can sign it into law.

Ireland’s Foreign Affairs Minister, Simon Coveney, speaks to the media, at Iveagh House in Dublin, August 16, 2017. (Brian Lawless/PA via AP)

The government is opposed to the bill, arguing that it has no authority to ban certain goods from entering the country, as this was the exclusive prerogative of the European Union.

In July, Coveney said that, “passage of the bill would be a breach of European law,” adding that Ireland’s attorney general confirmed this view.

Perhaps even more importantly, Coveney added, advancing the bill would not only sideline Ireland as a party that both Israelis and Palestinians would take seriously, but would also greatly diminish Dublin’s ability to influence EU policy on the Middle East.

Ireland would be “fanning the flames” of an already volatile Middle East if it passed the legislation, he said.

Last month, Coveney announced that his government intends to hold a Middle East peace conference in 2019, to be attended by EU countries and Arab governments.

He also indicated that Dublin would recognize a Palestinian state if the US administration’s current peace effort fail.

“If we see no prospect of a movement in the direction of a real peace negotiation in an effort to ensure that we recognize that the only solution can be based on two-state solution we may have to reassess government’s approach in relation to recognition,” he told reporters at the time.

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