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Relations Between Ireland & Israel Hit Unprecedented Low

In 2017 Dublin City Council flew a Palestinian flag above City Hall for a month as “gesture of solidarity” (Photo: Youtube screenshot)

Relations between Dublin and Jerusalem have been on an arrestable decline for years – relations maintained more so out of necessity, than anything else. October 7th and Ireland’s response has accelerated that decline – potentially to the point of ruin. It is a sad state of affairs that two such highly-developed, innovative countries with congruent traumas from history seemingly teeter on the brink of severing the diplomatic chord entirely. This is notwithstanding the mutual affinity of early Irish republicans and Zionists for one another in the 20th century, and the kinship of emancipation movements for the rights of Catholics and Jews when Ireland was part of the British Empire. Historic bonds have long since faded, and the next deterioration in the relationship – the acrimonious divorce – seems to be a question of when, not if.

After October 7th, the horrors perpetrated by Hamas sharply cast into light who are Israel’s allies, who are their enemies and who are those who will play politics. Though neither a friend nor foe of Israel, the Emerald Isle has certainly played politics in the wake of such terror. Newly-arrived Ambassador of Israel to Ireland, Dana Erlich, noted as much, stating that historically neutral Ireland is far from neutral on Israel, and admitted to being taken aback by the public reaction in Ireland to October 7th. A recent Sunday Independent poll showed only 10% of the Irish people sympathise more with Israelis than the Palestinians – compared to 51% who support the Palestinians over the Israelis.

This public sentiment has fuelled the according political response. People Before Profit TDs have openly called for “Intifada” against Israel – to negligible condemnation. Some have even gone further to endorse the “beauty” and “inspiration” of Hamas’s bloodshed. The President of Ireland, Michael D Higgins, breached the rules of presidential impartiality to criticise the European Commission President’s solidarity with Israel. Several opposition parties have brought motions to the Dáil to expel the Israeli Ambassador and bring Israel to the International Criminal Court (ICC). The Palestinian Ambassador to Ireland who refuses to condemn the actions of Hamas was the celebrity of the recent Sinn Féin Ard Fheis, whilst opposition political parties across the country headline rallies in support of “Palestine”.

This sentiment has also permeated the ranks of government. During Leaders’ Questions only recently, a Cabinet Minister said Israel was “blinded by rage” and waging a “war on children.” The government has confirmed it will provide additional financial support for  the International Criminal Court (ICC) in its biased investigation into Israel. The leader of the government, has said Israel is acting out of revenge rather than self-defence. The voice of moderation, let alone friendship, is glaringly absent.

Yet this escalation of antagonism towards Israel, comes at a time when the economic relations between Ireland and Israel have been deepening. According, to the OEC, during the last 26 years the exports of Ireland to Israel have increased at an annualized rate of 9.1%, from $185 million in 1995 to $1.78 billion in 2021. During the last 26 years the exports of Israel to Ireland have increased at an annualized rate of 15.5%, from $50.7 million in 1995 to $2.15 billion in 2021. In 2023, direct flights between Dublin and Tel Aviv several times a week were launched by El Al airlines. Meanwhile in 2021, the IDA sought to recruit a business consultant based in Israel to attract FDI investment from Israel into Ireland. It had been hoped that these economic developments could change the political dynamic – Ireland’s response to October 7th put paid to many of these hopes.

So, where do we go from here? Ireland is taking overt diplomatic measures to target Israel, be it supporting ICC prosecution or lobbying for targeted sanctions at the EU level. These actions can and will have consequences – particularly at risk are the relations with America and the pronounced presence of MNCs in the Irish jurisdictions. Rapprochement is unachievable at the present moment, meaning the best that can be hoped for is a prolonged stay of execution on the thread that are Ireland-Israel relations.

About the Author
Government Relations & Public Affairs Professional | Former Political Advisor in the Irish Parliament, and to both local and national election campaigns in the Republic of Ireland, and United Kingdom | Former CAMERA Fellow (2018/2019)
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