Israel protests to Ireland over Dublin mayor’s W.Bank trip

Irish nationalist Lord Mayor Micheal Mac Donncha (C) attends a press conference on Jerusalem, in the West Bank city of Ramallah on April 11, 2018

Jerusalem (AFP) – A senior Israeli official on Thursday formally complained to Ireland’s ambassador after Dublin’s mayor slipped past an entry ban to attend a Palestinian conference. 

Deputy director general Rodica Radian-Gordon “expressed her amazement and deep disappointment at the fact that the mayor chose to participate in a blatantly anti-Israel event,” Israel’s foreign ministry said in a statement.

Lord Mayor Micheal Mac Donncha entered Israel on his way to the Israeli-occupied West Bank for a conference Wednesday night on the disputed status of Jerusalem.

Although he was officially barred from entry for alleged anti-Israel activity, he passed unchallenged through immigration at Tel Aviv airport late Tuesday, reportedly due to a clerical error misspelling his name. 

Both Israel and the Palestinians claim Jerusalem as their capital.

Its Palestinian eastern sector was captured by Israel in the 1967 Six-Day War and subsequently annexed to the Jewish state.

Palestinians want it as the capital of their future state. 

The Israeli statement quoted Radian-Gordon as saying Mac Donncha’s Ramallah visit was “particularly jarring” as it took place on Holocaust remembrance day, which Israel marked from sunset Wednesday.

It added that the Jewish state “expects a public and official Irish response to the conduct of the council of its capital city and particularly its head, who are conducting a campaign of discrimination and hatred against the state of Israel”.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who is also foreign minister, wrote on Facebook that he had instructed the ministry to hold a “clarification discussion” with Mac Donncha.

Netanyahu said the Ramallah conference “featured prominent images” of Haj Amin al-Husseini, leader of a 1936 revolt against the British mandate over Palestine and grand mufti of Jerusalem. 

To Palestinians he is a national hero, but Israelis remember him as an ally of the Nazis. In 2015 Netanyahu suggested that he gave Hitler the idea to exterminate Jews — a claim dismissed by historians.

“I have one message for the mayor,” Netanyahu wrote. “You should be ashamed of yourself.” 

Interviewed by Israeli state-run Kan 11 television outside the conference hall in Ramallah, Mac Donncha appeared never to have heard of al-Husseini.

“I’m not even aware of the individual that you mention. People who have stood up to fascism in all kinds of forms all over the world were here today,” he told the interviewer. 

“I think that’s a distraction, it really is a distraction.”

Israel ordered a probe Wednesday into how Mac Donncha was allowed into the country.

Israeli daily Haaretz said the ban order sent to airport immigration officials misspelled Mac Donncha’s name, meaning he did not show up on the watch list.

The paper said he has ties with the Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign, which promotes a boycott of Israeli businesses and foreign firms which trade in the country. 

Israel’s interior ministry and strategic affairs ministry blamed each other for the mixup, it said. 

Air and sea passengers travelling to the West Bank must pass through Israel, while the land border between the territory and Jordan is controlled by Israeli security and immigration officials.