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Renewed Israeli bombardment of Gaza will prove counterproductive, says Varadkar

Social Democrats leader Holly Cairns (Brian Lawless/PA)
Social Democrats leader Holly Cairns (Brian Lawless/PA) Social Democrats leader Holly Cairns (Brian Lawless/PA)

The ongoing Israeli bombardment of Gaza will prove counterproductive and is likely to make Israel less secure in the future, Ireland’s premier has warned.

Leo Varadkar’s remarks came as Israel intensified its attack on the enclave’s second largest city, Khan Younis, as it continued to widen its offensive into southern Gaza.

However, Mr Varadkar again rejected calls for Ireland to impose sanctions on Israel, insisting such unilateral action would have no influence on Israeli thinking and would likely result in retaliatory steps against Irish exports from Israel and supportive allies.

The Taoiseach was asked about the renewed violence in the Middle East, following the collapse of last week’s seven-day ceasefire, as he took questions in the Dail parliament from opposition politicians.

Social Democrats leadership
Social Democrats leadership Social Democrats leader Holly Cairns (Brian Lawless/PA)

Social Democrats leader Holly Cairns claimed the “depths of the depravity” being unleashed by Israel in Gaza was “unprecedented in its scale, and in its brutality”.

“The fact that many Western leaders are watching this and still refusing to directly criticise Israel is despicable,” she said.

“What will it take for the international community to act? Or are Israel free to unleash whatever hell they like on more than two million people, already civilians in Gaza have been murdered, mutilated, displaced, starved and brutalised.

“They’ve all been denied all of the protections they’re supposed to have under international humanitarian law.

“Taoiseach, the Irish government’s words of condemnation have been stronger than most EU countries. But words are not enough. It is long past time for sanctions to be imposed on Israel.”

She asked Mr Varadkar for an update on what legal advice he had received in respect of whether Israel was in breach of a human rights clause in its trade deal with the EU, thus potentially warranting a suspension of the agreement.

Ms Cairns also urged the Taoiseach to use the next EU council meeting to press for sanctions against Israel.

“I share your horror about what is continuing to unfold in Gaza,” Mr Varadkar told her in reply.

“And I don’t think anyone can find the current situation to be anything more than unbearable, quite frankly, to see thousands of people being killed and thousands of children losing their lives.

“And while Israel has the right to defend itself, the actions that they’ve taken in my view, and that of the Government, are disproportionate and will ultimately be counterproductive because we know from history that when people are treated in that way it strengthens their resolve.

“I think, as the Americans have said in recent days, Israel might achieve a military victory, but it’s very likely to be a strategic defeat in terms of their own long-term security.

“And I was glad to hear the American authorities using that language and putting across that message.”

Mr Varadkar said while he had requested the legal advice in regard to the Israel/EU trade deal he had not yet received it.

He also reiterated his call for a further extended or permanent ceasefire.

“And just in relation to sanctions, I can only say what I said before – sanctions are only effective when they’re done on a multilateral basis,” he added.

“I don’t believe it would be the right thing for Ireland to engage in imposing unilateral sanctions. There would be a response that would almost certainly be retaliation, not just Israel, perhaps from others.

“That would create problems for us and disadvantages for our citizens and would not be effective in changing the mind of the Israeli government.

“I think you (Ms Cairns) know that as well as I do. Sanctions can only be effective if they’re done on a multilateral basis.”

He continued: “If we go out on a limb and take unilateral actions, we’ll be listened to less. It might make us feel better, but it won’t do any good for the Palestinian people.”