Motion on Palestine Dail Debate 10th December 2014

December 11th, 2014 - Pat Breen

I welcome the opportunity to speak on this important motion this evening.
I, as Chairman, and other members of the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Trade have taken a keen interest in issues relating to the Middle East, in particular, the situation in Palestine and Israel, over the past three and a half years. For example, in September last, the committee met both ambassadors for four hours in public session and today we revisited the issue. It has been an important part of the committee’s programme over the past three and a half years.

Ireland first asserted in 1980 that the solution to the conflict in the Middle East lay in the establishment of a Palestinian state. In accordance with that, Ireland voted in favour of Palestinian admission to UNESCO, and as a non-member observer state at the UN. Of course, the next logical step is for the recognition, by agreement of both sides, of a Palestinian state. Also, in 2011, Ireland upgraded the title of Palestinian General Delegation to Ireland to “Palestinian Mission”, and the title head of mission from delegate general to “ambassador, head of mission”. These may be small steps but they are important. They are a significant symbol of the recognition of Palestine.

As Chairman of the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Foreign Affairs and Trade, I have long recognised the importance of the need to continue dialogue at a political level. That has been said by most speakers here tonight. It is only through the process of dialogue that we will achieve a lasting solution, based on fairness and equality and on a two-state solution. Only today, the committee met the Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel, EAPPI, an NGO that works in the region monitoring and protecting human rights. All such organisations should be supported in order to move forward a peaceful solution.

In recent years, matters were clearly not helped by the effects of the Fatah-Hamas split. I would urge Hamas to recognise the state of Israel. That is imperative, if we are to move forward with talks. The agreement reached in June this year between the two sides, Hamas and Fatah, paved the way for long overdue presidential and legislative elections, following which a government will be forged in the usual way. I welcome this development as an important step forward in reaching an overall negotiated settlement.

I agree with the broad international consensus that the only way forward for both the Palestinians and Israel is the negotiation of a viable two-state solution, with the establishment of an independent Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza on the basis of the 1967 boundaries. The rejection of this proposal by sizeable parts of successive Israeli Administrations has led to the continuous expansion of Israeli settlements. This, in turn, has led to heightened tension and increased violence, which has resulted in a lasting settlement appearing to be further away than ever. It seems that the current Israeli Government, albeit that elections have been called for next March, cannot allow itself to make the concessions that are necessary for a lasting two-state solution. In order to make one step forward, any decrease in violence would be welcomed.
How many minutes have I, four or five?

Acting Chairman (Deputy Frank Feighan): Four minutes. Deputy Breen has run over.

Deputy Pat Breen: I thought I had five minutes.

Acting Chairman (Deputy Frank Feighan): The Deputy has run out of time.

Deputy Pat Breen: Before I finish, a lot of attention has been given to the decision by Sweden to officially recognise the state of Palestine. Also, in October, the Seanad agreed on this as well. While Dáil Éireann may support the motion here tonight, this will be a Government decision in the end. The Government has stated it will support the decision when the time is right. For this reason, I believe we should support this motion.