Israel fears the United Nations is on the cusp of announcing the membership of its fact-finding mission on West Bank settlements, a move it claims could harm efforts to rekindle the frozen peace process.

Already on June 14, UN Human Rights Council president Laura Dupuy Lasserre responded to a query on the matter at a meeting with NGO representatives in Geneva.

She said there should be recommendations for members of the fact-finding mission by the end of the 20th session on July 6.

In March the Council passed a resolution to establish such a probe, the first of its kind to explore West Bank settlements – which the council already believes are illegal under international law.

It asked Lasserre to appoint people to the investigatory committee, and to report on the implementation of the resolution.

Once established, the mission will be asked to look at the implications on Palestinians of West Bank settlements as well as Jewish building in east Jerusalem.

“There is a high probability that by the end of this session, we will have a fact-finding mission with three prominent members,” said Eviatar Manor, deputy director-general for international organizations at the Foreign Ministry.

Israel knows that the council president’s office has approached a number of candidates, Manor said.

“This is not an opportune time to speed up the establishment of the fact-finding mission,” he emphasized.

“There are nascent attempts to revitalize the Israeli Palestinian talks, whether we call them dialogue or negotiations.”

Actions like the establishment of a settlement probe could harm those efforts and push the sides further apart,he said Diplomatic efforts by like-minded countries to lobby Lasserre not to appoint the fact-finding mission have “fallen on deaf ears,” he added.

Already in March, when the investigation was announced, Israel cut its ties with both the council and the office of UN human rights chief Navi Pillay, who visited Israel only last year.

“It is important for us to remind everyone that we are not going to cooperate with this fact-finding mission. They will not be allowed to enter the country or go to the West Bank,” Manor said.

He noted that this would be the third probe by the council into Israeli activities in the last four years. In 2009, the council appointed a fact-finding mission into Israel’s military incursion in Gaza in the winter of 2008-2009, headed by South African jurist Richard Goldstone.

In 2010 it ordered an investigation into Israeli actions aboard the Gaza-bound flotilla that lead to the death of nine-Turkish citizens.

Manor charged that these probes into Israeli actions are not about the subjects under investigation, but rather are political tools to attack and delegitimize Israel.

The issue of the settlements is best addressed by Israel and the Palestinians through negotiations for a final-status agreement, Manor said.

Attempts to address the issue outside of negotiations limits the scoop of future compromises toward a solution to the conflict, he said.

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