Diplomatic officials on Sunday toned down the harsh rhetoric and threats
following the UN Human Rights Committee’s decision to send a fact-finding
mission to Israel to probe the settlements’ effect on Palestinian human
One official said there was some “discomfort” among diplomatic
officials over a statement Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman put out from
Singapore on Friday, accusing PA President Mahmoud Abbas of using “diplomatic
terror” against Israel in the international forum.
“Terror is terror, and
diplomacy is diplomacy,” and there is no need to compare this with terrorism,
one source said.
In the statement, Liberman also said that he would
convene a meeting of the Foreign Ministry to discuss lobbying other countries,
such as the US, to leave the UNHRC, as well as consider cutting off all
cooperation with that body. There were even media reports that Israel considered
recalling its ambassador to the UN organizations in Geneva over the
Neither suggestion is realistic or has been seriously discussed,
one source said. The US – which recently became a member of UNHRC as part of US
President Barack Obama’s policy of greater engagement with the UN – is not going
to leave so quickly, and especially not over an issue dealing with the
settlements, something the US has little sympathy for, according to the source.
The source also said there were some three
dozen UN organizations based in Geneva, some of them dealing with issues
important to Israel, and that Jerusalem was not going to recall its ambassador
because it disagreed with the policies on one of those bodies.
surprising step, Peace Now’s executive director Yariv Oppenheimer said he
opposed the council’s creation of a factfinding mission on
“We think the [UN] Human Rights Council is not an objective
body,” Oppenheimer said.
His organization strongly opposes all Israeli
settlement activity and independently monitors it.
“Settlements are an
important issue and they are harming Palestinians human rights,” he said. “We
are very critical of Israel’s settlement policy in the West Bank,” he
But Oppenheimer added, the council “has taken the issue a few steps
further than the truth.”
It is possible, he said, that Peace Now would
refuse to cooperate with the fact-finding mission.
“We have not decided
yet,” he said. “But we are considering this move.”
Meanwhile, even though
Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon told Israel Radio Sunday morning that
Israel would not allow the fact-finding mission into the country, no formal
decision on how to respond to the commission has yet been made, either in the
Foreign Ministry or at the cabinet-level.
While cabinet ministers spoke
angrily about the decision on their way to the weekly cabinet meeting, the issue
did not come up there, or even in the Likud ministerial meeting that preceded
it. Contrary to reports, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu did not convene the
forum of his top ministers, known as the octet, to discuss the
“There is time,” one government official said. “We don’t have to
rush into any decision now.”
The officials said that neither the mandate
for the commission, nor its participants, has yet been drawn up, nor has there
been a formal request yet for any Israeli cooperation.
And just as no
decision has been made regarding how to interface with the commission, no
decisions have been made on whether and how to take economic or diplomatic
sanctions against the PA for initiating the move.
While Ayalon said that
Israel needed to send a clear message to the Palestinians that they cannot
simultaneously work to harm Israel diplomatically and benefit from Israeli
gestures, he added that the country would not “shoot from the hip” and instead
would act with discretion on the matter.
The PA, meanwhile, criticized
the US for voting against the UNHRC decision. Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb
Erekat said that by voting against the decision, the US was committing a “big
mistake” in its foreign policy.
The UN council’s decision was adopted
with 36 votes in favor and 10 abstentions. The US was the only country to vote
Erekat said that the fact that the US was alone in opposing
the decision showed the extent to which Washington was biased in favor of
The US vote was also a sign of how the US did not know what was
needed to achieve peace in the Middle East, he added.
Erekat urged the
Arab countries to exert pressure on the US to change its policies. “It is high
time for the Arabs, in the wake of current changes in the Arab world, to address
the US as decision-makers,” he said.
The PA welcomed the decision to
dispatch a fact-finding mission to look into the impact of the settlements. PA
leaders said the decision was an important step that would send a message to
Israel regarding its policy of settlement construction.Tovah Lazaroff
contributed to this report.