Irish government rejects Israel boycott

There is "no possibility whatsoever" that Ireland will call for trade sanctions and boycotts against Israel, its Foreign Minister has announced.

Members of the Joint Committee on European Affairs met in Leinster House, Dublin, on Tuesday to discuss Article 2 of the EU-Israel Association Agreement, which states that relations should be based on respect for human rights.

Foreign Minister Micheál Martin said he was a "consistent critic" of the blockade against Gaza, but believed that boycotting Israel would be futile.

He said: "No Irish government has supported a policy of boycotts or sanctions against Israel, and it is absolutely clear that there would be no possibility whatever of obtaining agreement at EU level for such a ban.

"We are trying to persuade Israel to change its policies. It is important for us in doing so to show Israelis that we are open to good relations with them, that we are not inherently hostile or negative, that we genuinely believe we have their best interests at heart. It is quite clear to me that our influence in Israel would be lessened, and our voice weakened, if we were to advocate - futilely, as I have pointed out - a policy of bans or boycotts."

Israel's outgoing ambassador to Ireland, Zion Evrony, told the committee that comparing the Israeli-Palestinian conflict with the Irish peace process was a "dangerous exercise" and called on Ireland to stop singling out Israel.

He said: "Let me remind you that Israel is not solely to blame for the situation in the Middle East and therefore should not be singled out for sanction.

"Calls for boycotts and sanctions are counter-productive. The way to contribute to peace is to encourage and support dialogue between Israelis and Palestinians, rather than polarise opinion further."

But Palestinian delegate general to Ireland, Dr Hikmat Ajjuri, said he hoped the committee would decide that Israel was "in grave breach" of Article 2.

He said: "The indiscriminate nature of the Israeli offensive on Gaza and the great losses prove that the real targets of the Israelis are not 'extremists' or their weapons, but the will and the resolve of all the Palestinians, in the hope of imposing a unilateral humiliating settlement on them.

"I believe that these Israeli practices are not at all a reflection of Jewish values but of the Zionist strategy of ethnic cleansing of Palestine since 1948."

● Boaz Modai has been named as the next Israeli ambassador to Ireland. Mr Modai, 52, has previously worked in Honduras, Italy, Thailand and the UK.

    Last updated: 3:33pm, June 24 2010