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Benjamin Netanyahu summons Irish ambassador after Seanad debates bill on banning goods from Israeli settlements

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has told his country's Foreign Ministry to summon the Irish ambassador in Israel after the Seanad debated a bill tonight to block the import and sale of goods from Israeli settlements.

The bill debated in the Seanad would also ban services from the occupied territories.

Mr Netanyahu wants the ministry to seek clarification on the matter and express Israel's dissatisfaction.

The Seanad adjourned the debate until July, with sources telling Israel's Haaretz news website: "This will allow the Irish government five months to progress a diplomatic approach and action at European Union level. It also gives more time for improvements, amendments and changes to the bill."

It comes after a group of Israeli activists including former members of Knesset, legal experts, ex-ambassadors, artists and academics, urged the Dáil to support the bill.

In a letter published in the Irish Times today, they wrote: "We, concerned citizens of Israel, are writing to you regarding the Control of Economic Activity (Occupied Territories) Bill 2018, which was brought to our attention and which is due to be debated in Seanad Éireann on January 30th.

"We urge Ireland to support any legislation that will help enforce differentiation between Israel per se and the settlements in the occupied territories of the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

"The Israeli occupation of the territories beyond the 1967 borders, ongoing for more than 50 years with no end in sight, is not only unjust but also stands in violation of numerous UN resolutions.

"We are convinced that Israel’s ongoing occupation of the Palestinian land in the West Bank and East Jerusalem is morally and strategically unsustainable, is detrimental to peace, and poses a threat to the security of Israel itself.

"As people who care deeply for Israel’s future and long for our country to live in peace with its neighbors, we urge you to support the aforementioned Bill."

The letter is signed by former lawmaker Uri Avnery, former ambassadors Elie Barnavi, Ilan Baruch and Alon Liel and former Attorney General Michael Ben-Yair, among others.

Irelan's ambassador to Israel, Alison Kelly, will attend the meeting tomorrow.