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To ask the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade his views on the recent announcement by Israel that it intends to build nearly 300 new homes in the West Bank; his views on the way this will impact upon peace efforts in the region; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

- Mick Wallace.

For ORAL answer on Thursday, 16th May, 2013.

REPLY 

I dealt in my earlier reply with the issue of settlement products as one response to the continuing destructive impact of settlements.  Labelling of settlement goods -- and possibly at a future stage a ban on settlement goods -- can, I believe, send a strong political and moral message.  But as I have stated before, we should not focus disproportionately on this one aspect.  The key issue is the very existence of these settlements and their continual expansion.

Settlements are illegal under international law; they inherently involve injustice and dispossession of Palestinians;  they are an obstacle to a viable peace agreement and are intended as such.  Every settlement expansion makes more difficult the issues which have to be resolved to achieve peace, and undermines belief that Israel is serious about a solution. Settlements are now also very close to making a Palestinian state, and thus a two-state solution, physically impossible to achieve.

Specific settlement announcements can be misleading and the same proposal can be announced repeatedly at different stages in the planning process.  The 300 units referred to by the Deputy were first announced last year, to accommodate and supposedly compensate settlers who were finally obliged by a Supreme Court order to leave an illegal settlement outpost.  The contrast between this case and the treatment of a Palestinian family evicted because the house they have lived in for 40 years did not have planning permission is striking and eloquent.

The tempo of settlement announcements has clearly quickened, however, in the last year or more; and the timing of many of these strongly suggests that they were intended to hinder efforts in the peace process.

With our EU partners, we are working on a range of issues and measures relating to settlements, including evictions and dispossessions, planning rules and master plans in Area C, water and other infrastructure issues, and the treatment of Bedouins and other vulnerable people.  This is an area to which I will continue to pay the closest attention.

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