The US sharply criticized the United Nations Human Rights Council on Friday for its biased treatment of Israel.
It was the only country to stand with Israel and to vote against four resolutions that dealt with the Palestinian territories and the Golan Heights.
“We are disappointed that this council continually singles out Israel for criticism without acknowledging the violent attacks directed at its people, nor the obligations and difficult steps required of both sides. In short, such singling out undermines the credibility of the council,” said US Ambassador to the UNHRC Keith Harper.
It was the second time last week that he has spoken out in support of the Jewish state at the UNHRC.
On Friday, Harper said he was particularly troubled by the UNHRC resolution, which called on Israel to return the Golan Heights to Syria, in spite of the continued civil war in that country.
“Especially disturbing is this council’s complacency with the repeated introduction of a resolution focusing on the Golan Heights,” said Harper.
“To consider such a resolution while the Syrian regime continues to slaughter its own citizens by the tens of thousands exemplifies the sheer absurdity of this agenda item.”
The resolution slammed Israel for its treatment of Syrians on the Golan Heights and was supported by 29 of the UNHRC’s 47-member body, with 17 abstentions. The United States was the only country to vote against the resolution.
The council also voted on three resolutions with regard to the Palestinians as it wrapped up its 28th session on Friday in Geneva. It called for the Palestinian right to self-determination and urged UN bodies to support Palestinian efforts toward statehood recognition.
In addition, in two other resolutions, the UNHRC took Israel to task for human rights violations in the Palestinian territories and for continued settlement building.
It called on Israel to freeze and reverse settlement activity and to withdraw to the pre-1967 lines.
Member states of the UNHRC voiced overwhelming support for these three resolutions on the Palestinian territories, with 45 countries approving two of them and 43 approving the third. Again, only the US voted no on all three resolutions. The European Union in contrast voted in support of all three resolutions.
The resolutions were proposed and voted on under Agenda Item 7. The UNHRC is mandated to set aside Agenda Item 7 at each session for a debate on Israeli actions in the territories. There is no such mandate for any other country.
The US and the EU have opposed the UNHRC’s singling out of Israel through Agenda Item 7, but only the US turned its opposition into action on Friday and voted “no” to make a principled point.
Harper said the US is committed to a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and believed strongly in the importance of human rights.
The US supports the Palestinians and remains the largest donor country to the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian refugees, Harper said.
“We remain troubled, however, by this council’s standalone agenda item directed against Israel, and by the many repetitive and one-sided resolutions under that agenda item. None of the world’s worst human rights violators, some of whom are the object of resolutions at this session, have their own standalone agenda item at this council.
Only Israel receives such treatment,” he said.
Harper issued his statement at a low point in US-Israel relations. President Barack Obama has spoken out against pre-election statements that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made in which Netanyahu said that given the current reality in the Middle East he did not believe a Palestinian state would be created while he was premier.
Netanyahu has since affirmed his commitment to a two-state solution, but Obama has said the US is now reassessing its policies toward the creation of a two-state solution.
The US has warned that as part of that reassessment it might no longer offer Israel automatic support at the Security Council. It is, however, committed to standing with Israel at the UNHRC.
The EU said it believed that voting in favor of the resolutions on the Palestinians would not impact any efforts to resume negotiations.
On Friday, the PLO’s ambassador to the UNHRC in Geneva, Ibrahim Khraishi, said the Palestinians wanted to submit a joint resolution with Israel on self-determination.
He also spoke in support of Agenda Item 7, which he said was necessary because Israel is in persistent violation of international law.
“Israel also had to be held accountable for grave violations of human rights and humanitarian law. Foreign occupation is the first and foremost of the violations by Israel,” Khraishi said.
Israel did not speak prior to the vote or participate in the debate earlier this week under Agenda Item 7, which like the US, it considers to be a biased mandate that solely singles out Israel.
Under Agenda Item 4, the council passed separate resolutions on the human rights situations in Syria, Iran, Myanmar and North Korea.