A motion in the Irish Parliament calling for the expulsion of the Israeli ambassador has been defeated.
The vote came as more than a thousand protesters calling for the expulsion of the ambassador staged a demonstration outside the Oireachtas.
The motion proposed by the Social Democrats called for a range of economic and diplomatic sanctions against Israel, including that the diplomatic credentials of Israel’s ambassador in Ireland, Dana Erlich, be revoked.
The motion also called for Ireland to use its influence in Brussels to seek a suspension of the EU-Israel trade deal, invoking a human rights clause in the agreement, and suspend Israel from participation in the Horizon Europe research funding initiative.
The party additionally said Ireland should also refer Israel to the International Criminal Court.
Tabling a counter-motion that removed the calls for sanctions, Minister of State James Browne told the Dail parliament that maintaining diplomatic links with Israel was vital
The government amendment to the motion was voted for by 85 votes to 55.
A motion by Sinn Fein calling for Ireland to refer Israel to the International Criminal Court – that was debated in the Dail on Tuesday evening – was also defeated.
Throughout the evening protesters outside the parliament waved large Palestinian flags as they also called for a ceasefire in the conflict.
The demonstrators chanted “Free Palestine”, “Israeli ambassador, out, out, out”, and “from the river to the sea, Palestine will be free”.
The demonstrators also erected a large sign which spelled out “Gaza” in lights.
People Before Profit TD Richard Boyd Barrett was among the demonstrators.
Sinn Fein TDs Pearse Doherty and Matt Carthy, as well as Social Democrat leader Holly Cairns and party TD Gary Gannon were also in attendance.
Earlier Mr Browne told the Dail that maintaining diplomatic links with Israel was vital.
“There is a humanitarian catastrophe unfolding in Gaza and there is a real risk of regional spillover of conflict,” he said.
“At the same time, I regret that the motion proposed by the Social Democrats seeks to push Ireland to the margins of international opinion,” he said, claiming such a move would undermine the country’s influence in the Middle East.
“It underplays the value of international and multilateral engagement.
“Ireland must continue to work with our international partners in responding to this crisis.
“The Government has made its position clear regarding proposals to expel the Israeli ambassador – cutting off diplomatic relations with a country means cutting off communication channels.
“Diplomacy is not always or only about friendly relations, and nor is it an endorsement of the policies or actions of a given country. It is precisely at times of conflict and tension that diplomacy is most useful and most needed, and it is vital to maintain communication links.”
Ms Cairns insisted “words of condemnation are not enough” as she opened the debate on the motion.
Accusing Israel of committing war crimes in Gaza, Ms Cairns criticised the Government for proposing amendments that she claimed would replace the demand for tangible sanctions against Israel with “platitudes and zero actions”.
“The refusal of most western leaders to shout stop and demand a ceasefire has led to thousands of deaths,” Ms Cairns told the Dail.
“Israel is killing with impunity. According to the World Health Organisation, Gaza is now a graveyard for children.”
She added: “I recognise that the Irish government has done more than most of the EU to advocate for a ceasefire, but that’s just evidence of how low the bar is.
“Words of condemnation are not enough. We need action.
“There must be consequences for the crimes perpetrated by Israel on a captive civilian population in Gaza.”
Later responding to Mr Browne’s warning of Ireland being pushed to the margins, she said: “Given the majority of western leaders’ opinion, I’m happy for Ireland to be an outlier.”
Mr Carthy said he was “ashamed” at the international community’s response to the Israeli bombardment of Gaza.
“I am ashamed of the international community’s response to what we have seen in Gaza and particularly ashamed by the response of the EU,” he said.
“I think EU leaders have ensured that the European Union no longer has any credibility to be a voice for peace, international law and for the basic rules of humanity for so long as they refuse to take a stand.”
Mr Carthy told Mr Browne that the world was “turning a blind eye” and “the EU, worse still, is providing cover”.
He criticised the Government’s failure to back the call for economic and diplomatic sanctions against Israel.
“Every single possible action that might help pressure Israel to stop the slaughter of innocent Palestinians is met with pathetic excuses,” he said.
“It’s not good enough, minister. It is well past time that Ireland shows leadership, not to follow the lead of a European Union that clearly isn’t willing or capable of providing the leadership that’s much needed in this instance.”
Minister of State Sean Fleming also addressed the Dail during the two-hour debate.
“It is clear that deputies across the house are deeply and genuinely concerned at the horrific situation that has unfolded in Israel and in the occupied Palestinian Territory over the past three weeks. The Government shares this deep alarm at the situation and its continued rapid deterioration, including the grave humanitarian situation that now exists within the Gaza Strip,” he said.
He added: “The Irish Government’s position on this is clear. Israel has the right to defend itself and its people from attack. But this is not an unfettered right.
“International humanitarian law applies, the principle of proportionality applies, and the Israeli military has a duty to ensure the protection of citizens. A humanitarian ceasefire for Gaza is an essential, basic step now.”