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Israel to ‘review’ operation of Irish NGOs in Palestine as Martin says treatment of Ireland’s ambassador in Jerusalem ‘wrong’

Tánaiste criticises the manner in which Ireland’s ambassador to Israel was reprimanded in Jerusalem before Israeli media

Israel plans to “review” Ireland’s diplomatic, economic and humanitarian activities within Israeli borders, the country’s ambassador in Dublin has said as political tensions rise over the Government’s recognition of the state of Palestine.

In an interview with The Irish Times, Dana Erlich said there would be a review of bilateral relations – “diplomatic, security, economy, military, anything, intelligence – all of the range of aspects, and then we’ll see the different diplomatic tools that we might have – if it’s authorisations, accreditations, anything like that”.

Asked about Irish non-governmental organisations (NGOs) operating in Palestine, she said: “I don’t know because most steps are with government entities and government bodies, but... we need to review all of that,” she said, acknowledging that many NGOs are Government-funded.

She was speaking as she prepared to return to Jerusalem for consultations with her government after Ireland’s decision, along with Spain and Norway, to officially recognise the state of Palestine.


The announcement this week prompted the Israeli foreign ministry to reprimand their ambassadors during a meeting in Jerusalem on Thursday where the diplomats were also shown video footage of female Israeli soldiers being taken hostage by Hamas.

Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs Micheál Martin criticised the manner in which the meeting was staged, with Israeli media filming the Irish ambassador Sonya McGuinness and her European counterparts as they watched the video footage.

“We have a very strong ambassador I think she does a fantastic job in Israel, she’s fair but I think there has to be norms around how diplomats are treated and there has to be respect and I think today was very inappropriate and wrong but nonetheless we’ll continue to keep putting our point.”

Mr Martin said it may not have been intended but “I have never before come across a situation where media are invited in to witness [a meeting of diplomats] in the manner that happened today”.

Ms Erlich said Ireland had a “disproportionate obsession with Israel that we don’t see with any other country”.

She also expressed worry and frustration with how Israel is perceived and portrayed in Ireland.

“You can object to Israeli policy and the current government,” Ms Erlich said. “You can object to the steps taken by Israel. You can object to decisions.

“But what we see here – the comments made by politicians, different initiatives spreading in civil society – it has gone beyond the normal criticism, it is a vilification of a whole society, which now is also translated to the Jewish community here.

“We see the rise of anti-Semitism. And it is all connected. This is why yesterday’s step concerns us with the message it sends to Hamas, but also, me as ambassador, it concerns me about how Ireland sees Israel and the future of these relations.”

In a CNN interview on Thursday evening, Taoiseach Simon Harris said he would not tolerate any country misrepresenting the position of the Irish people, adding: “We have been clear and unequivocal that we condemn Hamas, that we condemn the most horrific, barbaric massacre that Israel experienced on the 7th of October.

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

He said it was possible to say this and also say what “sadly some refuse to say” in relation to the Israeli response to the October 7th attack – that “what is happening in Gaza is a humanitarian catastrophe, that children are being starved ... and that there are children who will go to sleep in Gaza tonight not sure if they would wake in the morning”.

Pat Leahy

Pat Leahy

Pat Leahy is Political Editor of The Irish Times

Jack Horgan-Jones

Jack Horgan-Jones

Jack Horgan-Jones is a Political Correspondent with The Irish Times

Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn is a Political Correspondent at The Irish Times