‘We have had a violent past ourselves,’ Irish foreign minister tells Rivlin

“The reason that Irish people are so interested in the Israeli-Palestinian relationship and conflict is because we have had a violent past ourselves,” Coveney told Rivlin, in an apparent effort to justify his country’s traditional pro-Palestinian stand.

Meeting with the Israeli president Wednesday in Jerusalem, Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney attempted to mitigate the rebuke he got from Netanyahu the previous day over Ireland’s pro-Palestinian stance.

“The reason that Irish people are so interested in the Israeli-Palestinian relationship and conflict is because we have had a violent past ourselves, and we see this as one of the great conflicts and divisions in the world. That is why the majority of Irish peacekeeping soldiers are in this part of the world,” Coveney said in an apparent effort to push back against the criticism he faced on Tuesday.

Coveney – who has bucked trends in Ireland by speaking out against boycotts of Israel in the strongly pro-Palestinian Catholic republic – also noted that he has visited Israel several times. Dublin and Jerusalem have been able to maintain a good and professional relationship, despite differences of opinion, he said.

“I have been to Israel a number of times, and I know there is an impression here that Ireland takes a different position to Israel. Can I say that in essence, though, we are yearning for the same thing that I think the vast majority of Israelis are, which is a peaceful future,” Coveney said

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The meeting took place in a markedly different atmosphere than the apparently icy session with Netanyahu, when both sides released tense-looking photos and statements following the talk. Netanyahu blasted Ireland for refusing to condemn Palestinian incitement and asked the visiting foreign minister why Ireland helps NGOs that call for the destruction of Israel.

Coveney, for his part, said he had a “constructive and frank discussion” with Netanyahu, adding that he raised Irish concerns “firmly and listened to Israeli perspectives.”

Nevertheless, Rivlin also stressed Israel’s concern about Dublin’s pro-Palestinian stance, pointing to the PA rejection of Israel as a Jewish state.

The president also repeated his invitation to newly-elected Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar to visit Jerusalem.

“I think the relationship between Israel and Ireland is very important, in spite of differences of opinion which we have from time to time,” Rivlin said.  “We have differences of opinion and we can respect that, but we really are against the idea of boycott, I believe that among people who respect one another we have the ability to criticize from time to time, and also to explain the real facts according to our beliefs.”

The president also used the occasion to denounce recent UNESCO resolutions denying the Jewish people’s’ historic connection to Jerusalem. “To suggest the Jewish people have no connection to Jerusalem is to suggest the Irish people have no connection with Dublin or Guinness,” Rivlin stated.

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By: Andrew Friedman, TPS