The department for foreign relations: MK Isaac Herzog (Israel Labor Party), MK Reuven Rivlin (Likud Yisrael Beitenu) and MK Ronen Hoffman (Yesh Atid), met today in the Knesset with the members of the Foreign Affairs and Trade Committee of Ireland.
Ireland currently acts in the role of the Presidency of the Council of the European Union. Israeli-Irish relations have been complicated recently, with loud Irish calls for a cultural boycott of Israel, which 200 Irish cultural figures signed on to, Irish opposition to the inclusion of Hizballah on the terrorist organization list and the umbrella organization of Irish Unions deciding to completely boycott Israeli products.
During the meeting, Rivlin pointed to the window from which you can see the Eastern part of Jerusalem: ”We live together with our Arab brothers. It is our fate and we need to find a way to live together. I believe that we will be able to bridge the gaps despite the fact that sometimes it seems that the task is insurmountable. Dialogue between Netanyahu and Abu Mazen is essential and cannot be connected to preconditions. In Ireland, they were successful in realizing what at one time was considered a dream or fantasy.”
Herzog, who serves as the chair of the Israeli-Irish friendship group in the Knesset referred to the guests saying: ”The voices and opinions in Israel are many and varied. The Irish Parliament consists of four parties and in the Knesset there are twelve. I don`t know whether if in Ireland there is knowledge of the full extent of the complications in the Middle East. You are welcome to bring them up to date.”
MK Hoffman expressed his hope that official negotiations with the Palestinians would be restarted soon. ”I hope that we can negotiate on all fronts, but first we must get together, sit down and talk. Insisting on preconditions is a stumbling block and a time waster for negotiations.”
Foreign Affairs Committee of Ireland Chair, Pat Breen, said ”These interparlimentary meetings contribute to our understanding of the complicated situation here in Israel. We can learn from the painful past and to continue onwards. The Middle East Peace Process is very important to us. We suspect that after Obama`s visit and the great effort of Kerry has placed an opening before the two sides and unprecedented golden opportunity. We respect Israel`s right to defend her borders, but we fear that the expansion of the settlements will create difficulties in realizing the vision of two states.”
Member of the Irish Senate, Jim Walsh, said: ”This is also the birthplace of the Palestinians. The idea to build around Jerusalem is not successful, just like the separation wall and limiting Palestinian movement. The two sides need to compromise and we call on you to extend a hand to the Kerry initiative.”