DUBLIN - Ireland's government on Tuesday supported a parliamentary motion condemning the "de facto annexation" of Palestinian land by Israeli authorities in what it said was the first use of the phrase by a European Union government in relation to Israel.
Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney, who has represented Ireland on the United Nations Security Council in debates on Israel in recent weeks, supported the motion, and condemned what he described as Israel's "manifestly unequal" treatment of the Palestinian people.
But he also insisted on adding a condemnation of recent rocket attacks on Israel by Palestinian militant group Hamas before he agreed to government support for the motion, which had been tabled by the opposition Sinn Fein party.
"The scale, pace and strategic nature of Israel's actions on settlement expansion and the intent behind it have brought us to a point where we need to be honest about what is actually happening on the ground. ... It is de facto annexation," Coveney told parliament.
"This is not something that I, or in my view this house, says lightly. We are the first EU state to do so. But it reflects the huge concern we have about the intent of the actions and of course, their impact," he said.
Most countries view settlements Israel has built in territory captured in the 1967 Middle East war as illegal and as an obstacle to peace with the Palestinians. The United States and Israel dispute this.
Israel cites historical and biblical links to the West Bank and around 450,000 of its settlers live there, among 3 million Palestinians. It also denies any systematic violation of the human rights of Palestinians.
The motion came days after a ceasefire ended 11 days of the worst fighting between Palestinian militants and Israel in years. The violence sparked large pro-Palestinian protests in Dublin.
Sinn Fein refused to support the government amendment condemning Hamas attacks.
"The acts of terror by Hamas and other militant groups in firing rockets indiscriminately into Israel... cannot and should not ever be justified," Coveney said.