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Leo Varadkar says Israel has become ‘blinded by rage’

Irish premier Leo Varadkar has said that Israel has become “blinded by rage” and is not even listening to the advice of its close ally the United States anymore.

The Taoiseach was answering questions in the Dail about the number of Palestinians that have been forced to crowd into Rafah, which was targeted in a recent Israeli military operation.

Irish Labour Party leader Ivana Bacik said people had been killed or “brutally displaced”, and that there was “nowhere left” for Palestinian citizens to go.

“We’re witnessing Armageddon,” she told parliamentarians.

She said that as long as Ireland delays taking “meaningful steps”, then “our complicity in what is happening there is being prolonged”.

“It’s not good enough to say ‘wait a little longer’,” she said, adding that they need to move to end trade with occupied territories.

Irish Labour Party leader Ivana Bacik
Irish Labour Party leader Ivana Bacik (Brian Lawless/PA)

Mr Varadkar said he shared her distress and said there was “a serious risk of a massacre occurring” in Rafah if there was a ground assault, which he said would be a “gross violation of international law on top of all the other violations of international law which Israel is responsible for”.

He said that both Hamas and Israel should accept the three-month ceasefire proposal that has been brokered by Egypt, Qatar and the United States.

“We do all need to be realistic… It’s very very clear to me though, that Israel is not listening to any country in the world, I don’t even think they’re listening to the Americans anymore. They have become blinded by rage.

“They are going to make the situation I believe much worse for their own security in the long-term by going down the path that they’re going.”

While he said Ireland would continue to take action in response to Israel’s campaign in Gaza, he said there was a need to be “honest about the situation that we see unfolding”.

Mr Varadkar added: “We will take action, we have taken action, we’ll even take more action, but it’s very clear to me that Israel doesn’t listen to us, doesn’t listen to the world, probably doesn’t even listen to the Americans anymore.

“And that’s what makes the situation all the more dangerous and all the more worrying.

“I am concerned that there are people who shout at us and abuse us in the streets, maybe they don’t do it to you, but they do it to me and my colleagues here, who believe that there is some action that we can take that will change Benjamin Netanyahu’s mind.

“I think that’s incorrect, and I don’t think people should spread that idea. I think it’s actually irresponsible.”

Ireland’s deputy premier and foreign affairs minister Micheal Martin has said the country will again be increasing its funding for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA).

The UK and other western countries froze funding to the UN aid agency, after a dozen of its employees were accused by Israel of taking part in the Hamas attack on October 7.

Mr Varadkar said other states had “incorrectly” suspended funding to UNRWA.

Ireland provided 18 million euros (£15 million) to the agency last year, up from a regular contribution of six million euros.

Mr Martin said Ireland would again provide an increased contribution from the base six million euros in 2024.

Speaking in Dublin on Tuesday, he said: “UNRWA is the only effective organisation on the ground in Gaza that can distribute aid and humanitarian supplies at scale.”

On the domestic front, Ireland’s government has faced criticism from opposition parties and civil society for its stance on the conflict.

Irish constitution referenda
Tanaiste Micheal Martin said Ireland would continue to increase its funding for UNRWA (Niall Carson/PA)

There have been calls for the government to voice stronger support for South Africa’s case at the International Court of Justice alleging that Israel is carrying out a genocide in Gaza.

Opposition parties have also called for government to expel the Israeli ambassador and for the State to support the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement.

However, Mr Martin said some of the calls from the opposition are without substance.

He said: “There’s been an unhealthy desire on some in the opposition to try and create a wedge as to who’s more virtuous in Ireland on this question than I think is merited on any objective analysis of the facts.”

Mr Martin said EU leaders, Israel and the Palestinian people recognise that Ireland is the strongest supporter of Palestine in the European Union.

He said Ireland was a leader in calling for an immediate ceasefire when the majority of the EU initially had a “more restrained position”.

In addition, he told reporters that the Government was working with other EU states to examine recognition of Palestine as well as imposing a travel ban for Israeli settlers in the West Bank.

The Irish Attorney General will be travelling to The Hague on February 22 to make Ireland’s intervention in relation to an ongoing case at the International Criminal Court relating to the Israeli occupation of the West Bank.