Irish ambassador: Israel’s settlement activity makes it difficult to oppose BDS bill

Israel’s expansion of Jewish communities beyond the Green Line has made opposition to a BDS bill more difficult, Ireland’s Ambassador to Israel told The Jerusalem Post

By: World Israel News Staff

Israeli actions in Judea and Samaria make it difficult for the Irish government to oppose a pending bill criminalizing trade with Israeli companies based in Jerusalem, the Golan Heights, Judea and Samaria, Ireland’s Ambassador to the Israel Alison Kelly told The Jerusalem Post on Thursday.

The Control of Economic Activity (Occupied Territories) Bill 2018 passed its initial vote in the Irish Senate on Wednesday. The measure would make it a criminal offense in Ireland, punishable by a fine of up to €250,000 ($292,000) or up to five years in prison, for a person “to import or sell goods or services originating in an occupied territory or to extract resources from an occupied territory in certain circumstances; and to provide for related matters.”

This law would thus make the purchase of Israelis souvenirs, for instance, a criminal act if their production is connected to Judea and Samaria.

Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney voiced the government’s opposition to the bill during a debate at the Senate.

Israel slammed the bill, saying “the Irish Senate has given its support to a populist, dangerous and extremist anti-Israel boycott initiative that hurts the chances of dialogue between Israel and the Palestinians. It will have a negative impact on the diplomatic process in the Middle East.”

Bill ‘will harm the livelihoods of many Palestinians’

“The absurd in the Irish Senate’s initiative is that it will harm the livelihoods of many Palestinians who work in the Israeli industrial zones affected by the boycott,” the statement said.

“Israel will consider its response in accordance with developments regarding this legislation,” the statement concluded.

The Foreign Ministry summoned Kelly to its offices for a Thursday meeting.

“One of the points I always make to the Israelis is that I represent the government, and the government opposed the bill in January and it opposed it today,” Kelly told The Jerusalem Post after the vote.

If it becomes law, the bill could have significant implications for major American companies with Irish divisions or subsidiaries, such as Airbnb and Apple, whose global sales outside the US are taxed in Ireland and whose Irish subsidiary, “Apple Distribution International LTD,” paid $1.5 billion Irish corporation tax from 2014–2016.

Complying with an Irish ban on commerce with Israeli companies based in Judea and Samaria would violate US anti-boycott laws, which require American firms to refuse participation in foreign boycotts that the US does not sanction, and could result in substantial fines for those companies.

The Irish minority government does not enjoy a majority in either house, Kelly noted. “The bill is focused [solely] on the sale of products from settlements and not on trade within the Green Line,” she said in defense.

Ireland ‘consistenly opposed the policy of BDS’

“The Irish government has consistently opposed the policy of Boycott Divestment and Sanctions in relation to Israel and we regularly say this publicly,” she said.

Nonetheless, Kelly added that “the government opposed the bill for legal and political reasons, but support for it in Ireland is a sign of the deep concern at continued settlement activity, which we believe seriously jeopardizes the prospect for peace and the two-state solution. We firmly oppose all settlement construction. Events on the ground at the moment in Gaza, the demolition of Palestinian homes in the West Bank and announcement of settlement construction renders the task more difficult in opposing the bill.”

While Ireland is considered by many as comparatively hostile towards the Jewish state, Kelly insisted that “the scope of the Irish-Israeli relationship is broader than this issue.”

“We will continue to work to foster and to build wider links and to improve positive engagement with Israel in spite of the issues on which we disagree,” she stated.

The legislation now faces eight stages that include a committee meeting and a vote in Dáil  Éireann, Ireland’s House of Representatives. It becomes law only with the signature of the Irish president.