Former Irish president calls on US to stop sending weapons and funds to Israel

A former Irish president has called on the US to stop sending weapons and funds to Israel as the death toll in Gaza continues to rise.

Mary Robinson, who is the chair of the group of senior statesmen The Elders, said that Ireland’s leaders should push for political responses to the humanitarian catastrophe in the Palestinian enclave.

Mrs Robinson urged Irish premier Leo Varadkar to use meetings he has with US President Joe Biden and other senior US politicians this weekend to push this point.

Mrs Robinson said on RTE Radio on Friday: “Yes the humanitarian situation is utterly catastrophic and dire, reducing a people to famine, undermining all our values, but the message I want to deliver on behalf of the Elders is a direct message to our Taoiseach Leo Varadkar.”

Taoiseach visit to the US
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar during the annual ‘Friends of Ireland Luncheon’ hosted by Speaker Mike Johnson on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. (Niall Carson/PA)

“The United States can influence Israel by not continuing to provide arms, it has provided a lot of the arms, bombs that have been used on the Palestinian people and he’s continuing to do that and he’s also providing money.

“This (Israeli) government of Prime Minister (Benyamin) Netanyahu is on the wrong side of history, completely, is making the United States complicit in reducing a people to famine – making the world complicit.”

Mrs Robinson said that Mr Varadkar should speak to all levels of US politics “to make it clear that Israel depends on the United States for military aid and for money, that’s what will change everything”.

The former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights also questioned why funding to the UN agency for Palestinian aid UNRWA was stopped after allegations by Israel of 12 staff members’ involvement in the October 7 attack.

Taoiseach visit to the US
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar (left) at a bilateral meeting with President Joe Biden in the Oval Office at the White House in Washington, DC. (Niall Carson/PA)

“It’s as if UNRWA had to prove its innocence rather than have guilt proven,” she said.

She added that Mr Varadkar should tell Mr Biden to “take the risk” of the political fallout in what is a US election year to push for a peaceful solution or he will “lose whatever reputation he had”.

“What is happening is appalling and we’re watching it,” she said.

Speaking after meeting with Mr Biden at the White House on Friday, Mr Varadkar said he did not think the US would stop providing arms to Israel to defend itself, but added he didn’t believe the weapons were being used in self-defence.

“The president is very clear that the US would continue to support Israel and to assist Israel to defend itself so, I don’t think that’s going to change, but I think none of us like to see American weapons being used in the way they are. The way they are being used at the moment is not self-defence.”

He added: “There’s a difference between self-defence and what’s happening now and that’s why we need to move towards a ceasefire.”