How did the mayor of Dublin get into Israel – after two ministers confirmed that an order had been issued barring him from visiting the country? The answer to that question was the subject of much debate Wednesday morning, after it emerged that Mícheál MacDonncha, despite being banned from entering the country because of his support for the BDS movement, had actually cleared customs and arrived in Ramallah Tuesday night. According to the Border and Customs Authority, the reason was due to an error in the spelling of MacDonncha’s name – an error it blamed on the Office of Strategic Affairs, which in turn said that it had provided accurate information to the Authority.
An order banning MacDonncha had been signed by Interior Minister Rabbi Aryeh Deri, after it emerged that he planned to visit the Palestinian Authority. Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan said Tuesday night that officials had turned MacDonncha back when he tried to pass through customs. MacDonncha is an outspoken critic of Israel and a supporter of the BDS movement, and is active in the Ireland-Palestine Solidarity Campaign. He recently led a campaign to force the Israeli ambassador to Ireland to move out of his city.
The Interior Ministry and the Office of Strategic Affairs issued a statement Tuesday night, saying that MacDonncha, who had been invited to Palestinian Authority-controlled areas by the PA, had been banned from entering Israel. The order to ban him had been issued by the Interior Ministry, after consultation with the Foreign Ministry.
But about an hour after the statement was released, MacDonncha posted on social media that he was actually in Ramallah, and that he was preparing to participate in an anti-Israel conference on Wednesday. After it became clear Wednesday morning that MacDonncha had indeed successfully entered Israel, Rabbi Deri appointed Interior Ministry Director General Moshe Cohen to lead an investigation on how the Dublin mayor crossed the border unnoticed.
In its initial response, the Interior Ministry said that it was the fault of the Office of Strategic Affairs, which is responsible for compiling the lists of individuals banned by Israel. According to the Ministry, the name provided was incorrectly spelled, and as “he is not a well-known individual, officials did not know that MacDonncha was the subject of the ban,” officials said in a statement Wednesday. But the fault was not with its spelling, the Office of Strategic Affairs said. “The correct name and spelling was supplied to the Interior Ministry,” it said in a statement of its own.
Officials have not yet announced how they plan to handle MacDonncha’s departure. Sources told Hadashot News that it was highly unlikely that he would be arrested, as officials had, after all, authorized his entry into Israel, and the PA had admitted him to Ramallah.