Calls for Ireland to place sanctions on Israel and expel the ambassador are “coming almost entirely from people who have no experience of foreign policy”, the Taoiseach has told Newstalk Breakfast.
A People Before Profit motion to impose sanctions and stop US military personnel using Shannon Airport was defeated in the Dáil last night.
The Private Members' Motion urged the Government to act to “prevent the commission of genocide" in Gaza.
In the end, the motion was defeated by 83 votes to 50, with a Government countermotion passing in its place.
On Newstalk Breakfast this morning, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar questioned the experience of the TDs calling for the sanctions.
“I think those kinds of calls, I'm sure they come from a place of frustration and horror at what's going on in the Middle East, but they're coming almost entirely from people who have no experience of foreign policy,” he said.
“[People] who have never once attended a European meeting, by which I mean a proper official EU meeting and have never represented their country abroad and in a meaningful way.”
He insisted sanctions would be ineffective and could harm Ireland more than Israel.
“We know how sanctions operate,” he said. “Sanctions only work if they do more harm to the country being sanctioned than the country that's imposing the sanctions.
“So when sanctions were imposed on Russia, South Africa, you name it, Iran, they're done on a multilateral basis.
“If one country acts on its own, it is ineffective - the country being sanctioned isn't affected much, they don't really care, and you actually end up doing harm, sometimes, to your own country because then you can become the victim of a counter boycott.
“We know for example in the US, there are people who will counter-boycott anyone who boycotts Israel and do we really want to get into that space? Particularly when it wouldn't help the Palestinians at all.”
'We hope Emily Hand will be released, she's on the priority list - but even Hamas doesn't know where everyone is.'
Taoiseach @LeoVaradkar discusses 9-year-old Irish-Israeli Emily Hand - and his preferred outcome from the war.
— NewstalkFM (@NewstalkFM) November 23, 2023
The Taoiseach also said he is hopeful that nine-year-old Emily Hand will be among the hostages released by Hamas in the coming days – but warned that nothing is guaranteed.
“She is on the priority list but speaking to my contacts in in the region, even Hamas isn't clear exactly where everyone is,” he said.
“You know, it operates on the basis of cells, there are other groups involved too.
“So you know, we'll only know in the next few days as to whether she's one of those being released – but she's certainly on the priority list.
“So I think all her thoughts are with her and her family. I can't imagine what a traumatic experience like that is, being held captive in a tunnel away from your family.
“So hopefully she's out in the next few days.”
Mr Varadkar also said the EU can no longer engage with Israel and Palestine the way it has in the past.
“I think the European Union's policy towards Israel and Palestine has been very passive,” he said.
“When it comes to Israel, we generally trade with Israel and engage with Israel as though it were a normal Western European democracy that wasn't occupying a good part of somebody else's country.”
He said the EU has been the major donor to Palestine and the Gaza strip and should be asking for more in return.
“We're the body that's pumping in a huge amount of money and we haven't really asked for Palestinians to hold elections,” he said. “They haven't happened since 2005.
“We haven't really pressed them on issues around human rights. We could do more to press them to combat terrorism and the growth of militant groups, but it has been - partially because Europe is divided on the question of Israel and Palestine – it has been a passive approach and I don't think that's sustainable.”
Mr Varadkar said he remains hopeful the proposed four-day ceasefire agreed between Israel and Hamas will be extended.