Lieberman calls to shut down Israeli Embassy in Ireland over boycott bill
Defense minister says Israel should not 'engage with Israel's oppressors' after Irish Senate passes bill with overwhelming majority to criminalize Israeli imports from West Bank, setting Ireland on path to be first EU country to do so.
Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman called on Thursday for Israel to shut down the Israeli Embassy in Dublin in response to the Irish Senate voting overwhelmingly to approve a proposal to boycott companies and imports of goods from the West Bank settlements, a move that Israel warned Dublin not to implement in January.
"There is no point in summoning the Irish ambassador to Israel for a reprimand … We will not engage with Israel's oppressors. Israel should close immediately its embassy in Dublin," Lieberman tweeted. "We won't turn the other cheek to a country which boycotts us."
As a result of the vote, which passed with a majority of 25 to 20 on Wednesday, the Irish ambassador was summoned to a meeting at the Israeli Foreign Ministry's office. If Ireland advances legislation and officially approves the proposal it will become the first country in the European Union to criminalize import of goods from the settlements.
According to the proposal, all imports from "illegal settlements", including the Golan Heights and the West Bank, could result in fines. The proposal's initiator, Senator Frances Black, slammed Israeli settlements as "war crimes" and compared her initiative to Ireland's anti-apartheid actions against South Africa.
Though these settlements are repeatedly condemned as illegal by the European Union, United Nations and Irish Government, they continue to extract valuable natural resources and agricultural produce," she said in an article written in the Irish Times entitled "Ireland must act against Israel’s war crimes."
Ultimately, trade in settlement goods sustains injustice. We can criticise all we want, but years of empty rhetoric simply have not worked. As long as we buy their produce and they stay profitable, nothing will change," said Black, who won the support of all Irish political parties except the right-center party, Fine Gael, the largest in the country.
Following the approval of the proposal, the Israeli Foreign Ministry strongly condemned the decision.
Emmanuel Nahshon, the ministry's spokesman, said that "the Irish Senate has given its hand to an aggressive, dangerous and radical populist anti-Israel boycott initiative that undermines prospects for a dialogue between Israel and the Palestinians.
"The boycott will harm the livelihood of many Palestinians working in the Israeli industrial zones affected by the boycott, and will only deepen conflicts in the Middle East," said Nahshon.
For a third time this year, the Irish ambassador, Alison Kelly, was summoned to the Foreign Ministry's office. After she submitted the proposal In January, Kelly was called to the ministry's office and met with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Although she made it clear that the bill was not an initiative of the BDS movement, Netanyahu said the proposal supports those seeking to boycott Israel.
Kelly was also called to the ministry's office following the mayor of Dublin's participation in an anti-Israeli conference in Ramallah.
Chairman of the PLO's Executive Committee, Saeb Erekat, welcomed the proposal, saying that "this is a historic and courageous gesture that conveys a clear message to the EU and to the international community as a whole."
Erekat stressed that "it is not enough to talk about the two-state solution; we also need to take concrete measures."
The Irish government strongly opposes the initiative and claims that it creates trade restrictions contrary to EU values, as well as undermines Ireland's influence in the region.
According to EU law, its members can only mark products coming from settlements, but not boycott or impose sanctions on their imports.
The initiative will be handed over to parliamentary committees until it is finally approved by the Irish parliamentarians.