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Israel replacing reason with revenge

Israel has replaced reason with revenge and is not listening to countries calling for a ceasefire in Gaza, the Taoiseach has said.

Simon Harris said the EU should use “every lever at its disposal” to halt the violence in the region.

Last week, Mr Harris and Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said they wanted to work with like-minded countries to recognise Palestinian statehood.

The Irish leader will meet other heads of EU governments at a meeting of the European Council in Brussels tomorrow.

After an attack by Iran on Israel, which was condemned by Ireland, Mr Harris said he and other European leaders would be calling for stability and “restraint to be shown by all parties”.

He added: “Anything other than that at this stage would result in very significant bloodshed and very significant catastrophe for so many millions of people in the region.”

Speaking on CNN International’s Amanpour programme, Mr Harris said Israel had not been listening to the Irish Government’s calls for a ceasefire.

Asked if the EU had any influence in the region, Mr Harris: “It is obviously a matter for the Israeli government, for the Netanyahu administration, as to who they wish to listen to.

“They certainly haven’t been listening to Ireland and other countries and European states who have been calling for a ceasefire, for example, in Gaza for many, many months now but I do hope at this stage that common sense prevails.”

Mr Harris said Ireland would continue to “speak truth to power”.

“We’re a country that we believe has a respected voice in the world community, a country that is known for being an honest broker, a country that knows a lot about peace processes and one that intends to speak out in favour of international human rights law and a cessation of violence,” he said.

Asked why he had focused on the conflict in his first week in power, Mr Harris replied: “Quite frankly, we have to speak out against what is an incredible humanitarian catastrophe unfolding in Gaza.”

He said there is “no doubt” that Hamas is a terrorist organisation.

He added that the attack on Israel should be condemned and all hostages should be immediately released without preconditions.

“It is entirely, though, compatible to also say the next bit that I don’t think enough people have been saying,” Mr Harris said.

“What we’re seeing in Gaza now has moved well beyond a right for a country to defend itself to a situation where there is a disproportionate impact on women and children as well as civilian infrastructure.

“This country [Ireland] that I’m proud to lead in Government knows a lot about the spectre of famine. We are now seeing children in Gaza at risk of starvation.”

Khan Younis in Gaza following Israeli bombardment

Mr Harris said the “only way” to resolve the issues in the Middle East is a political process to bring about a two-state solution.

Mr Harris said he intended to continue to speak out in favour of peace, immediate cessation of violence and a two-state solution.

He added this may sound “almost impossible” under Benjamin Netanyahu’s administration but that is “not a reason not to speak out”.

“I want to see the European Union use every lever at its disposal to exert the maximum amount of pressure to bring about a ceasefire,” Mr Harris said.

Asked about Ireland and Spain’s moves towards recognising Palestinian statehood, Mr Harris said it is a “very good starting point” to recognise two states: Israel and Palestine.

“We also believe that alongside a secure and safe Israel should be a secure, peaceful and safe Palestine.”

He said there is “huge logic and rationale” in recognising Palestine as part of moving towards a two-state solution.

Asked about the Israeli ambassador to Dublin saying Ireland was on the wrong side of history, and that recognition of Palestinian statehood would reward terrorism by sending a dangerous signal to Hamas, Mr Harris replied: “You’ll excuse me for finding it a little bit hard to hear the representative of the Netanyahu government about being on the ‘wrong side’, because I think the actions of the Netanyahu government right now, in terms of allowing this humanitarian catastrophe to unfold in Gaza and the impact on women, children and civilians and civilian infrastructure, is profound.

“Ireland is extraordinarily clear in its condemnation of Hamas, extraordinarily clear in the need for release without condition immediately of all hostages, we’re extraordinarily clear of the right of Israel to live in peace and security.

“But we also believe that reason has now been replaced by revenge and there needs to be an immediate cessation of violence.”

Read more: Israeli war cabinet delays third meeting on response to Iran’s attack

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