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Irish senate advances boycott bill criminalizing trade with Israeli settlements

A view of the Israeli settlement of Beitar Illit on February 14, 2018
MENAHEM KAHANA (AFP)
Israel's foreign ministry said it would consider its legislative options in response to the bill

The Irish senate advanced in a second reading a bill that would make it a criminal offense to import or sell goods from various occupied territories, including Israeli settlements, punishable by up to five years’ imprisonment or a fine of €250,000.

The bill was passed in the senate by a vote of 25 to 20, but still needs to be approved by the House of Representatives before it becomes law.

Israel reacted with concern over the "populist, dangerous and extremist boycott", while a spokesman for the PLO expressed "sincere appreciation" for the initiative.

The Occupied Territories Bill was first introduced by a senator in January, but was delayed at the request of Ireland’s minority government, headed by the Fine Gael party, which does not support it despite denouncing Israel’s settlements policy. 

“The Irish Government has always condemned construction of illegal settlement. But this Bill asks Irish govt to do something it is not legally empowered to do — trade is an EU competence, not an Irish one. FF [Fianna Fáil — The Republican Party] knows this — so this move is both opportunist and irresponsible,” tweeted Foreign Ministry Simon Coveney last week.

The bill would have a “polarising” effect “at this time”, the Irish foreign minister said, stipulating that he would be “open to persuasion” in the future if there were no progress in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.

(Niall Carson/PA via AP)

Foreign affairs spokesman for the opposition Fianna Fáil party told i24NEWS that he did not view the bill “as a boycott of Israel,” as it also applies to trade from Turkish-occupied Northern Cyprus and Moroccan-occupied Western Sahara.

The Irish opposition party said it hoped the passage of the bill would “mark the beginning of a new stage in which Israel starts to pay an international political, economic and moral price for its actions,” and “a new stage in treating the Zionist lobby as a danger to the values that Europe claims to represent.”

Israel’s foreign ministry replied immediately with condemnation, calling it a “radical, anti-Israeli populist boycott that “undermines prospects for a dialogue between Israel and the Palestinians,” as well as harms Palestinians working for those boycotted companies.

“The absurdity of the Irish Senate is that the boycott will harm the livelihood of many Palestinians working in the Israeli industrial zones affected by the boycott,” the statement said.

The ministry said Israel would consider its legislative options in response.

Israel enacted last year a law that enables it to deny the entry of foreign citizens who make a “public call for boycotting Israel” or the settlements, when such a call has a “reasonable possibility” of succeeding. Many supporters of boycotts against Israel have been denied visas under the law or deported upon landing at Ben Gurion Airport.

Palestinian chief negotiator Saeb Erekat welcomed what he called "the historic motion banning trade with the illegal Israeli colonial-settlements in Occupied Palestine.This courageous step builds on the historic ties between Ireland and Palestine, as well as it shows the way forward for the rest of the European Union."

He said that employing such "concrete measures" were vital to the Palestinian, adding that "those trading with Israeli settlements are complicit in the systematic denial of the Palestinian right to self-determination."

Israel's Joint (Arab) List party also expressed its support of the motion in a press release Wednesday ahead of the bill's second reading.

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