So far, everything about the UN Human Rights Commission fact-finding mission on the settlements has gone according to script.

The report slammed Israel for violating human rights and international law, called for a withdrawal from the West Bank and east Jerusalem, and called for private business to terminate their business interests in the settlements.

Right on script, nothing new there.

Likewise, Israel – which boycotted the mission – issued a statement afterward that could have been written last year when the mission was first established.

“The Human Rights Council has sadly distinguished itself by its systematically one-sided and biased approach towards Israel,” the Foreign Ministry said in a statement. “This latest report is yet another unfortunate reminder of that.” Nothing new there either.

Everyone knew that the wildly biased Human Rights Commission was going to issue a blistering report against Israel, just as everyone knew that Israel would summarily dismiss it.

But just because the conclusions were pre-ordained, does not make the entire exercise unimportant. From Israel’s point of view this is just another step in the Palestinian strategy – increasingly successful – for confronting Israel in the international diplomatic arena, making things increasingly tough for Jerusalem in the world, keeping it on the defensive, trying to isolate it and keeping the world’s pressure on.

The UNHRC report by itself has little meaning, it becomes important – and problematic for Israel – within the context of this overall Palestinian strategy of keeping up a constant drumbeat of diplomatic confrontation.

Senior diplomatic officials in Jerusalem are increasingly expressing concern that the country’s standing in friendly capitals in Europe and even in Washington is sliding, and that the continuous condemnations and defeats in the international arena are taking a toll.

“You can’t fight something with nothing,” Prime Minister Ariel Sharon is said to have quipped to a top aid in the early 2000s, faced with pressure during the second intifada to move forward on the diplomatic track with the Palestinians.

As Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu puts together a new government, some are advising him to keep those words in mind. He will come under increasing pressure both from abroad and from inside his coalition, if it includes Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid, to initiate some step with the Palestinians to alter the perception that it is Israel – not PA President Mahmoud Abbas – who is the intransigent party blocking a return to the peace talks.

Among ideas being discussed in various quarters is the possibility of some kind of settlement freeze, perhaps outside east Jerusalem and the main settlement blocks, as an incentive to getting the Palestinian Authority back to the negotiating table.

The logic behind this is that if the PA says yes, negotiations will begin and the very fact that something is happening will give Israel a bit more breathing room in the international community. If the Palestinians reject the offer, then Israel can say it tried, that it took some measure to move things back to the diplomatic track, but the Palestinians did not bite.

Reports like those drawn up by the UN Human Rights Commission on the settlements have little importance and can be easily discarded when something else is happening, where there is at least some diplomatic motion, even if that motion does not lead to movement.

But in the absence of any diplomatic motion, reports such as these take on more significance because – essentially – that is all that is out there, and there is no diplomatic motion which Israel can use to bury these types of reports.

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