Thursday, 18 November 2021
Ceisteanna Eile - Other Questions
79. To ask the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence the extent and detail of military co-operation with Israel, including the purchase of military equipment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [56498/21]
Given the Minister's stated position that he feels it is okay for Israel to plunder Palestinian natural resources, what is the Irish involvement with the Israel military given that it is now part of a war crimes investigation by the International Criminal Court? Will he outline our involvement with the Israeli military? What kind of trade is being done in purchasing or exporting goods?
It would be helpful, in terms of the accuracy of debate in this House, if the Deputy did not make comments like he has just made, quoting me as saying it is okay for Israel to plunder Palestinian territories.
If the Deputy Brady wants to be taken seriously on this issue, we need to have accurate and civil debate. There is nobody in the European Union who is more vocal than I am in government in relation to concerns about the occupied Palestinian territory and Israel activities there.
That is something the Deputy could not possibly allow - that maybe I would be a strong voice for the aspirations of Palestinian people to have their own state. Perhaps Sinn Féin is not comfortable with others having a strong voice in that space.
Ireland has no operational military co-operation with Israel. The Defence Forces have no regular contact with the Israel Defence Forces, and Ireland does not buy any military equipment directly from the Israeli Government.
The primary focus for the procurement of defence equipment by the Department of Defence is to maintain the capability of the Defence Forces to fulfil the roles as assigned by Government. This includes undertaking overseas peace support operations, and in this regard to afford the greatest possible force protection to Irish troops while on all missions.
The principle of competitive tendering for government contracts is used by the Department of Defence for the acquisition of defence equipment for the Defence Forces. Central to those procedures is the requirement to allow fair competition between suppliers through the submission of tenders. This follows advertising of the tender competition on www.etenders.gov.ieand on the Official Journal of the European Union, where appropriate. This in line with the EU procurement directives.
According to a previous figure we were given, €14.7 million worth of military equipment was imported from Israel and Israeli arms companies. That included equipment for the Army such as spy equipment, artillery control systems, sophisticated weaponry such as that used by forces to fire around corners, Kevlar helmets and drone for spying.
It would not be lost on the Minister that, in 2013, Ireland signed up with a number of other countries at the UN to the Arms Trade Treaty. That treaty prohibits the State from authorising arms exports where it has knowledge that the weapons will be used in the commission of genocide, crimes against humanity, grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions or other war crimes.
Israel is actively being investigated for war crimes. This House has declared - and the Minister has declared - that they have breached international law by annexing Palestinian land. Will he now agree to impose an arms embargo on Israel to stop any military purchase from Israel of equipment that has been essentially tested on Palestinian people in the occupied territories?
Tender competitions are open to any company or country in accordance with the terms of all UN, OSCE and EU arms embargoes or restrictions. In this regard there are no such restrictions or embargoes in place on Israeli companies. The matter of barring Israeli companies from entering tender competitions for the provision of military goods would be akin to Ireland unilaterally placing an embargo on such goods from Israel. The Government does not support that approach. Such actions, in our view, would be ineffective and counterproductive.
I am advised that my Department has not purchased any weapons from Israel. However, other defensive equipment has been acquired from Israeli companies by way of competitive tendering, primarily unmanned aerial vehicles operated by the Defence Forces and ground surveillance radar equipment. Infantry combat helmets and an artillery fire control and command system have also been purchased from Israeli companies.
The manner in which the Department of Defence procures both goods and services remains consistent with international best practice and is in line with EU and UN decisions on trade embargoes.
International best practice and blah, blah, blah, blah is what we hear. What we hear is the Minister contradicting himself in the grandiose statements he makes condemning the actions of Israel. Israel is moving to expel Palestinians from villages to carry out live military operations and live firing actions. These are villages that have been funded by Irish Aid. The equipment we are purchasing from Israel has been battle tested in illegally occupied territories. The Minister might think that is okay but I do not. The right thing to do is to stop military trade with Israel. If we are serious about being the strongest voice for the Palestinian people internationally or at European level, the right thing to do would be to stand up against what is a brutal military occupation of the Palestinian people. To compound the Minister's failure, he thinks that it is okay to purchase that military equipment that is being used to occupy and oppress the Palestinian people brutally and the Minister thinks it is okay to use Irish taxpayers' money to purchase any military equipment from Israel. I certainly do not.
As I said, the manner in which the Department of Defence procures both goods and services remains consistent with international best practice and is in line with EU and UN decisions on trade embargoes.
The one thing the Deputy and I share is the outcome we would like to see which is an end to settlement expansion, demolitions, forced evictions and a peace process that works for both sides. That is what I, on behalf of Ireland, consistently work towards. That is why I have visited Israel and Palestine five times as Minister for Foreign Affairs and why I continue to try to build relationships that I believe can be influential in terms of decision making. The Deputy's approach is around boycotts and isolation. He wants me to expel the Israeli ambassador.
The Deputy does not want to hear a different perspective, that is the problem. He wants to operate on the basis of isolating Ireland. He wants us to expel the Israeli ambassador and not to talk to the Israeli Government at all.