I am very happy to support the motion because I am fully in favour of the sentiments behind it. For many years, Ireland has supported the creation of a sovereign Palestinian state not just because this would provide freedom and security to Palestinians, but also because we believe it is the best hope of such freedom and security for Israel and the entire Middle East. It is sometimes perplexing that Israel does not seem to recognise this fact. We appreciate that Israel is just a small enclave – the Israeli people very much believe this to be the case – in an Arab-dominated region. We also understand that the Israeli people feel beleaguered, particularly in view of their long history as victims of persecution. However, it is that history which should demonstrate to Israelis how a subjugated population whose members are denied their sovereignty, personal freedom, lands, homes and dignity will become increasingly radicalised and will for ever be a viper in the nest. This surely must be a greater threat to Israel than any two-state solution or any other solution or negotiated settlement at which it might be possible to arrive.
The long-held position of Israel, which was again communicated to us by that country’s ambassador to Ireland who encouraged us to vote against the motion, is that any recognition of a Palestinian right to self-determination should be postponed until Palestinian leaders recognise the equal right to self-determination of the Jewish people. I would offer three responses in this regard, namely, unlike Palestinians, the Jewish people already enjoy the right to self-determination; the continuing and accelerating erosion of Palestinian land appears to be an attempt to ensure that self-determination for the Palestinian people will never be achieved; and the Palestinian leadership has, on many occasions, reiterated its commitment to and desire for a two-state solution based on the 1967 border and 22% of the area of historic Palestine. A two-state solution would be a de facto recognition that both states would be entitled to self-determination. Refusing to come to the table to negotiate because the equal right to self-determination of the Israelis has not been recognised is a dubious justification.
All of that has been known for many years. The situation in the region has, if anything, disimproved. There has been increasing radicalisation of Palestinian youths, ever greater harassment and unrest and encroachment on and occupation of the land that might have been used to form a second state. I agree with the very definite shift in Ireland’s policy on this matter. This shift was articulated by the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade some weeks ago when he came before the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Trade and indicated that the basis of Ireland’s new policy is – in conjunction with the EU, if possible – to consider how the prospect of Palestinian recognition can help leverage meaningful discussions with Israel. If the prospect of recognition does not achieve progress in terms of bringing Israel to the negotiating table, if human rights abuses and the settlement programme continue and if UN resolutions continue to be ignored, then we should move towards actual recognition. The use of economic sanctions and every other peaceful means at our disposal must be considered in this regard.
None of what I am saying is aimed at exonerating violence perpetrated by the Palestinian population. The truth is, however, that Palestinian people have been oppressed for so long and are now so without hope that the region is increasingly in danger of becoming fertile ground for total destabilisation. If this proves to be the case, there should be no doubt that the destabilisation will not be confined to the Middle East. I support the motion.