Ireland issues warning on investing or doing business in Israeli settlements

The Irish Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade has issued ‘Advice for Irish Citizens and Businesses regarding involvement in financial and economic activities in Israeli settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territory’. This is much more robust than its earlier notice regarding the risks of buying property in the West Bank, and issued in the context of a travel advisory, and it follows on the heels of a United Nations Human Rights Council resolution calling on States to provide such guidance to companies. The current advice reads as follows:

Ireland and its EU Partners have a clear position on Israeli settlements. The West Bank, including East Jerusalem, Gaza and the Golan Heights are territories which have been occupied by Israel since 1967. Israeli settlements are illegal under international law, constitute an obstacle to peace and threaten to make a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict impossible. The EU and its Member States will not recognise any changes to the pre-1967 borders, including with regard to Jerusalem, other than those agreed by the parties.

The Government accordingly wishes to offer advice to both the general public and, in particular, Irish companies and businesses of the risks related to economic and financial activities in the settlements and to make clear that we do not encourage or offer support in any way to such activity.

Financial transactions, investments, purchases, procurements as well as other economic activities (including in services like tourism) in Israeli settlements or benefiting Israeli settlements, entail legal and economic risks stemming from the fact that the Israeli settlements, according to international law, are built on occupied land and are not recognised as a legitimate part of Israel’s territory. This may result in disputed titles to the land, water, mineral or other natural resources which might be the subject of purchase or investment.

The advice goes on to warn of the risks to reputation that companies face by conducting business in the settlements, as well as implying potential complicity in human rights violations and breaches of international law:

Irish citizens and businesses should be aware of the potential reputational implications of getting involved in economic and financial activities in settlements as well as possible abuses of the rights of individuals. Any person or company contemplating any economic or financial involvement in settlements should seek appropriate legal advice before proceeding.

Potential buyers and investors should be aware that a future peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians, or between Israel and Syria, could have consequences for property they purchase or economic activities they promote in these settlements. In case of disputes, it could be very difficult for Member States to ensure national protection of their interests.

The Irish Government concludes its advice with a statement concerning the issues of boycott and divestment:

The Government also wishes to reiterate its long-standing policy of complete opposition to any form of boycott directed against Israel as well as its continued strong commitment to promoting our trade and business ties with Israel to the full.

Given what is happening in Gaza at the moment, calls for boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel are likely to grow and the Government may find itself out of step with public opinion on this matter. From a business perspective, there have been some divestments by European pension funds from various Israeli companies, but this has been largely ad hoc and is probably a reflection of the opposition of EU Member States, including Ireland, to any severance of trade links with Israel.

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