Expelling Israel’s ambassador to Ireland would undermine efforts to get Irish citizens out of Gaza, the country’s deputy premier has insisted.
Micheal Martin was responding to a call from Ireland’s main opposition party Sinn Fein, which claims Israel’s ongoing bombardment of Gaza has rendered ambassador Dana Erlich’s position in Dublin untenable.
Sinn Fein had previously abstained in several votes at local council level on calls for Ambassador Erlich to be expelled. However, the party shifted position on Thursday, insisting it was no longer tenable for the ambassador to remain in Ireland.
Tanaiste Mr Martin branded Sinn Fein’s call “knee jerk” and “populist”.
“Logic escapes me as to how we are to meaningfully seek to get our Irish citizens out of Gaza if one of the countries that we’re working with, we break off relations with,” he said.
Mr Martin said expelling the ambassador would mean Ireland’s ambassador in Israel, Sonya McGuinness, would be sent back.
He said Ms McGuinness was currently working on getting the 35-40 Irish citizens still in Gaza out of the country.
“Sinn Fein called for this in a press release which was headed ‘Ireland should use every diplomatic means available to bring an end to the conflict’. But how do you do that if you break off relations with one of the main actors in the conflict?” he asked.
“And I don’t think that’s serious, and I think it’s playing to a populist agenda, but it’s not serious conduct of foreign policy, and it’s not responsible, in my view. And I just need to call that out.”
On Friday, Irish premier Leo Varadkar said that some of Israel’s actions in Gaza were not just self-defence and resembled “something more approaching revenge”.
The Taoiseach reiterated his belief that Israel has a right to defend itself, and to “go after Hamas”, but said what he is “seeing unfolding at the moment isn’t just self-defence”.
He also said Israel would not consider Ireland a close friend or ally as it has a different stance on Palestine than most Western countries.
Speaking to reporters on Saturday as he attended his party ard fheis annual conference in Dublin, Fianna Fail leader Mr Martin was asked if he would also characterise Israel’s actions as being motivated by “revenge”.
Mr Martin, who is also Ireland’s foreign affairs minister, said there was “clearly a lot of anger” in Israel following the Hamas attacks on October 7.
“But that does not justify, in my view, the scale of the bombardment on Gaza,” he added.
“I believe what Israel is doing is disproportionate. It’s not necessary. So, I believe it contravenes the fundamental principles of international humanitarian law, where the concepts and principles of necessity and proportionality are key.”
Asked if Israel was perpetrating war crimes in Gaza, Mr Martin said that would ultimately be a question for the International Criminal Court to assess.