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Netanyahu summons Ireland's ambassador to Israel over settlements law

The West Bank Israeli settlement of Maale Adumim (foreground-R), a few kilometers from East Jerusalem (background), would be absorbed into Jerusalem under a bill opponents say paves the way for unilateral annexation of West Bank settlements by Israel
THOMAS COEX (AFP/File)
Ireland's foreign affairs minister Simon Coveney told the Senate that the government opposes the bill

Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu summoned Ireland's envoy in Israel to the foreign ministry in Jerusalem on Tuesday as he blasted a debate in the Irish senate over a bill that would outlaw all trade with Israeli settlements.

In a statement, Netanyahu said the "sole purpose [of the legislation] is to support the [Boycott Divestment and Sanctions] movement and harm the State of Israel."

"The initiative gives a back wind to those who wish to boycott Israel and stands in stark contrast to the guiding principles of free trade and justice," he added.

The country's senate, or Seanad Éireann, on Tuesday adjourned debate until July on a private member's bill that would ban imports and exports between Ireland and Israeli settlements in the West Bank, which Israel took control of in 1967 and upon which the Palestinians hope to establish an independent state.

Israel's Haaretz newspaper reported that debate was adjourned to give the government, which opposes the bill, time to formulate amendments. 

The debate was preceded by a letter from several Israeli political and cultural figures, including former ambassadors, in the national Irish Times broadsheet, encouraging Irish lawmakers to back the bill.

"We are convinced that Israel’s ongoing occupation of the Palestinian land in the West Bank and East Jerusalem is morally and strategically unsustainable, is detrimental to peace, and poses a threat to the security of Israel itself," the letter read in part.

The bill, titled The Control of Economic Activity (Occupied Territories) Bill 2018, is likely to gain backing from the opposition, the Irish Times reported on Tuesday.

Ireland's foreign affairs minister Simon Coveney told the Senate that the government opposes the bill.

One speaker in support of the bill criticized what they said was Israel's systematic denial of construction permits to Palestinian residents of Area C of the West Bank, which is under full Israeli control, and the day-to-day difficulties some Palestinian schoolchildren have in getting to and from school because of attacks from Israeli settlers.

One of the first contributors to the debate said that Europeans "resolved our guilt after the Holocaust by inflicting what the Palestinians call the Nakba," a reference to the founding of the state of Israel which Palestinians refer to as the "catastrophe".

He also urged Ireland not to wait for a unified European Union position on settlement trade, saying that Germany will be against it because "they have a bad conscience because of the Holocaust" and that he thought "it is dreadful that the Israeli government should use the Holocaust as a weapon."

The debate will be adjourned at 6.30pm local time.

This is developing story.

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