'unilateral' | 

Irish MEPs blocked from diplomatic mission to Palestine after Israel stops chairperson entering

'Respect for MEPs and the European Parliament is essential for good relations'

MEP Grace O'Sullivan pictured at Tramore, Co.Waterford. Photo: Noel Browne

Paul Hyland

Two Irish MEPs were part of an EU delegation which had to cancel a planned diplomatic mission to Palestine today, because Israeli authorities blocked the delegation’s chairperson from entering the State.

The Delegation for Relations with Palestine called off the trip after its chairperson Manu Pineda was blocked from entering Israel.

The delegation of six MEPs, including Green Party South MEP Grace O'Sullivan and Sinn Fein Midlands North-West MEP Chris MacManus, was due to arrive in Israel en route to Palestine via Tel Aviv.

However, at late notice the group was informed that the mission would not be able to go ahead as planned due to what has been described as a "unilateral decision” taken by Israeli authorities to limit the access of the MEPs.

The Israeli authorities said: "[They] cannot allow the visit to Gaza of delegations with political affiliation and legislators."

European Parliament President Roberta Metsola will visit Israel and Palestine in the coming days.

In a message posted Twitter following the cancellation of the delegation’s mission, President Metsola said: “Respect for MEPs and the European Parliament is essential for good relations.”

It comes as earlier this week, the Delegation for Relations with Palestine was informed by Israeli Authorities that it would not be allowed to visit the Gaza region “as a delegation”.

MEP Grace O’Sullivan said she was waiting to board her flight at Dublin Airport today, when she received word that Israel was “obstructing our access to the occupied territories”.

"We had lots of planned meetings with NGOs and officials from the Palestinian Authority but unfortunately the trip is cancelled and the Chair of the Delegation has been denied entry to Tel Aviv. The Palestinians we were to visit are working on the ground in the most difficult circumstances, especially in the light of the recent killing of journalist Shireen Abu Akleh,” she said.

Ms O’Sullivan has condemned the move by Israeli authorities and said the EU must react strongly, with sanction if necessary.

"I expect European Parliament President Metsola today and Commission President Ursula von der Leyen during her forthcoming trip to the region, to raise this issue firmly and at the highest level with the Israeli authorities. It’s vital to ensure that MEPs and European Parliament bodies are finally allowed into Palestine, including Gaza,” she said.

"The European Parliament, and the EU at large, has shown that it can take appropriate retaliatory measures in cases where countries such as Russia and China target our MEPs, I want to see the similar leadership in this current situation. We must take a strong stance in defence of elected representatives and more importantly the Palestinians whose voices are denied by moves like this.”

She added: “We’ve seen in recent times that if you let a government away with unacceptable behaviours that it all ratchets up and in the end it can get out of hand. In the case of Ireland and the EU, there are trade sanctions that can be considered.”

Ms O’Sullivan met with the Palestinian Ambassador to Ireland Dr Jilan Wahba Abdalmajid this afternoon to discuss the incident. She said Ambassador Abdalmajid is “disappointed” but not “overly surprised”.

"She enormously disappointed that the delegation was blocked because she identified that we had a good programme that would have been very important for us to highlight the situation on the ground... She is not overly surprised, but she is hugely disappointed that we haven’t had the opportunity to get into the various areas we were going to and to meet the different groups,” she said.

Ms O’Sullivan added that she hopes the delegation can complete the mission “as soon as possible”.

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