Peace groups in Ireland who saw PESCO (European Permanent Structured Cooperation in the area of security and defence) as a step on the road to a neutrality breaking military alliance will greet the news that Israel is now part of the PESCO’ fold’ with greater alarm. It’s another giant step down that road and a step too far.
Of course PESCO ‘detractors’ like the League were always contradicted by the Irish government mantra that this was all about European security. Indeed, PESCO has specific conditions which it was assumed would rigidly control ‘Third States’ participation. Having looked at them closely I wonder how Simon Conveney managed to square Irish support for this latest European extension of the treaty by raising no objection to the alliance including Israel.
Peace groups not surprisingly will oppose this move and the Celtic League via its Irish Branch are firmly supportive of efforts by PANA and others to ‘keep Ireland neutral’. Groups in Ireland also supportive of the Palestinians who have endured years of torment and aggression from the Israeli Defence Forces will also be opponents.
However leaving aside this natural opposition you have to ask what ‘sea change’ in Irish diplomacy has occurred over the past few decades and indeed if Messrs Coveney, Martin and Varadkar have any grounding at all in the historical diplomatic tensions between Ireland and the State of Israel.
A former Taoiseach Charles Haughey had to approach the United States some years ago asking them to rein in their Israeli allies because of the manifest aggression that they showed toward Irish peacekeepers. Haughey was not having some flight of fancy here Irish peacekeepers were constantly obstructed in their UN role. Many paid the ultimate price and died trying to maintain a fragile peace line between Israel and its neighbours. State papers released in 2017 showed the Irish government believed that one attack by the IDF that resulted in a death was ‘deliberate and unprovoked’:
It was not just the IDF who were involved in the deaths of Irish peacekeepers. Israel via its proxy South Lebanon Army was also involved in the abduction and murder of Irish UN personnel. The activities of the SLA also strained diplomatic relations and in the early 1980s also hindered Israel’s efforts to get ‘resident embassy’ status in Ireland. Commenting on the support for the SLA by Israel a government note at the time said;
“The Irish people found it hard to understand why Israel should be supporting someone whose forces were harassing and sometimes shooting at Irish soldiers who were engaging in peacekeeping in Lebanon.”
Obviously these days with Ireland contributing one of the largest groups of personnel to UN peacekeeping in the Region many may ask what’s changed and as the note puts it find it, ‘hard to understand’.
For Martin and Varadkar it may be easy to justify to themselves support for Israel’s involvement with PESCO. I would imagine if you are a member of the Irish Defence Forces with UNIFIL sitting on the Syria-Israel border it may be a little more difficult and uncomfortable to comprehend.
Link: The only Irish media (so far) to report this is ‘The Phoenix’:
Image: Simon Coveney
pp Celtic League Military Monitoring (7th February 2021)