Harris: Israel is misrepresenting the views of the Irish people on Palestine

Israel is misrepresenting the views of Ireland, the Irish premier has said.

On Wednesday, Ireland announced its recognition of the state of Palestine in a joint move with Norway and Spain.

The decision is to formally take effect in the three countries on Tuesday May 28.

In response, Israel warned there will be “severe consequences”.

Ireland’s ambassador in Israel, alongside her Spanish and Norwegian counterparts, was called to the Israeli foreign ministry for a reprimand.

As part of a “severe demarche”, the three ambassadors were shown videos of Hamas carrying out kidnappings.

The Israeli foreign affairs minister, Israel Katz, claimed Ireland and Taoiseach Simon Harris had “rewarded terrorism”.

Discussing the reprimand on Thursday, Mr Harris said Irish ambassador Sonya McGuinness was doing an “excellent” job representing the views of Ireland.

Israel-Hamas conflict
The three Irish Government leaders: Eamon Ryan, left, Simon Harris, centre, and Micheal Martin, announced the move on Wednesday (PA)

He said: “Any foreign ministry can call in any ambassador but what I will not tolerate is any country misrepresenting the position of the Irish people.

“I am the leader of the Irish Government, I speak on behalf of Ireland and we have been clear and unequivocal that we condemn Hamas, that we condemn the most horrific, barbaric massacre that Israel experienced on the seventh of October.

“We call for the unconditional and immediate release of all hostages.

“But it is entirely possible to say what I have just said and also say the next bit – which sadly some refuse to say – that what is happening in Palestine, what is happening in Gaza, is a humanitarian catastrophe.

“That children are being starved, are being deprived of food and that there are children who will go to sleep in Gaza tonight not sure if they will wake in the morning.

“This situation is not sustainable. It needs to stop.

“I have no intention of being in any way, shape or form distracted from the immediate need for a cessation of violence in the Middle East; the need for the release of the hostages for humanitarian aid to flow unimpeded and unhindered; and the need for a peace settlement.

Speaking on CNN’s Amanpour programme, Mr Harris added: “And I can say this to the people of Israel: We recognise the state of Israel.

Child Poverty and Well-being Summit
Simon Harris, left, with former UK prime minister Gordon Brown at the inaugural Child Poverty and Well-being Summit in Dublin on Thursday (Brian Lawless/PA)

“We recognise the state of Israel’s right to live in peace and security.

“That is their right. The people of Palestine also must have an equivalent right to peace and security.

He added: “And let me also say this to the people of Israel. The Irish people know what it’s like to have their national identity hijacked by a terrorist organisation.

“The IRA was never the people of Ireland and Hamas is not the people of Palestine.”

Earlier, Mr Harris said an aim of the recognition of Palestinian statehood was to build a “momentum towards a peace process” with Israel.

Speaking in Dublin on Thursday, Mr Harris was asked about the warnings issued by Israel.

He said: “I had a very good conversation with the president of Israel (Isaac Herzog) last Friday. It was firm but respectful.

“We exchanged views and I outlined the Irish position, so I don’t think anyone in the world, least of all Israel, would have been surprised by the decision that Ireland, Norway and Spain took yesterday.

“I fundamentally believe that it is the right decision. It is an effort to try and create momentum towards a peace process that may seem far away, but is absolutely and essentially needed.

“A two-state solution is the only way to bring peace and stability to the people of Israel and the people of Palestine.”