Irish senate approves ban on products from Israeli settlements

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Ireland’s senate has voted in favour of a bill banning the importation of products from Israeli-occupied Palestinian territories, paving the way for the country to become the first EU nation to enforce a boycott.

The bill, which has faced angry Israeli opposition, prohibits “trade with and economic support for illegal settlements in territories deemed occupied under international law”.

Having been approved in the upper house of the Irish parliament, the Seanad, the legislation will now need to get through more Seanad votes and then the lower house before becoming law.

The peace process has been at death’s door since the former secretary of state John Kerry’s peace mission ended in failure in 2014. But the international community – apart from the US – is united in saying recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel is disastrous for any hopes of reviving meaningful talks. The status of Jerusalem is one of the pivotal issues that diplomats and peacemakers have said must be agreed between the two parties in negotiations.

Palestinians will see Trump’s announcement as the end of their hopes and demands for East Jerusalem as a capital of a future independent state. While few want a return to violence, many will feel diplomatic efforts have got them no closer to a state of their own. 

The Israeli government will be thrilled. Ever since it captured (and later annexed) East Jerusalem in the 1967 six-day war, Israel has claimed the city as its “eternal and undivided” capital, and has longed for international recognition. Some 200,000 Israelis living in illegal settlements will also celebrate.

At Israel’s urging, a previously scheduled vote in January was delayed at the Irish government’s request. Israel’s foreign ministry, which is headed by the prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, had summoned Ireland’s ambassador to Israel, Alison Kelly, at the time.

Israel took control of the West Bank from Jordan in 1967, an area of land on which Palestinians hope to establish an independent state. Around 600,000 settlers live in occupied territory in east Jerusalem, the West Bank and the Golan Heights.

Benjamin Netanyahu and Prince William.
The Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, pictured here with Prince William, has condemned the bill. Photograph: Tim Rooke/Rex Features/PA

Estimates put the value of settlement-made products to Ireland at between only €500,00 to €1m annually but proponents of the bill say it could chart a path for other EU states to follow.

Netanyahu has denounced the bill, saying it “gives a tailwind to those who seek to boycott Israel and is utterly contrary to the principles of free trade and justice”. The bill does not ban all Israeli products.

Frances Black, the independent senator who sponsored the bill, said in a statement before the vote that “trade in settlement goods sustains injustice”.

“In the occupied territories, people are forcibly kicked out of their homes, fertile farming land is seized, and the fruit and vegetables produced are then sold on Irish shelves to pay for it all,” she said.

“These settlements are war crimes, and it’s time for Ireland to show some leadership and refuse to support them.”

The bill does not name Israel but instead refers to an “occupying power” and “illegal settler”.

In 2015, the EU issued guidelines for the labelling of products from Israeli settlements, which it considers illegal and says are an obstacle to peace.

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