LONDON - Israel has been featured in a quarterly report on Human Rights and Democracy released by the British Foreign Office on Thursday, alongside serial human rights offenders Iran, Bahrain and Belarus. The foreign office identified the Jewish State as a "country of concern," making a special mention of the recent Gaza escalation, Israeli settlement policy and the Israel government's withholding of Palestinian custom revenues.
Israel’s inclusion on the list of 28 countries perpetrating violations is likely to cause its incoming government some concern, in light of its close British ally’s repeated cautions in recent months that Israel’s “illegal” pursuit of settlement expansion risks alienating its international allies.
The update of the climate between October and December 2012 concluded that despite Hamas receiving widespread condemnation from foreign leaders at the time of November’s escalation for instigating the exchange of hostilities, “the violence has resulted in a number of humanitarian needs, including a worsening of the already precarious humanitarian situation in Gaza”.
On the issue of Israel’s contentious settlement building in the West Bank and east Jerusalem, the report recalled British Foreign Minister William Hague’s warnings that the continued policy “undermines trust between the parties” as it “constitutes a serious provocation and an obstacle to peace.” It further concluded that the planned expansions “would have an impact on the economic development, transport links and the ability of the Palestinian Authority to deliver services to its citizens,” as well as displacing Palestinians from the region.
The report also quoted an EU statement from December 17 stressing that “incursions by Israeli forces into Palestinian cities where the Palestinian Authority under the Oslo Accords assumes the powers and responsibilities for internal security and public order, put in jeopardy the internationally recognized success of Palestinian institution building efforts”.
The Palestinian Authority also came in for some degree of criticism for inadequate policing of protests; however, the report attributed this in part to their capacity for policing bring “undermined by the Israeli decision to freeze the transfer of Palestinian customs revenue,” which Israel claims is in payment for unpaid bills to Israeli service providers such as the Israel Electricity Company.
The PA was lauded however for distancing itself from “incidents of incitement which work against the creation of a culture of peace”, in particular highlighting a number of (recent) inflammatory statements by Hamas leaders denying Israel’s right to exist”.
Recalling Foreign Office Minister Alastair Burt’s repeated condemnation of “any comments that could stir up hatred and prejudice in a region that needs a culture of peace and mutual respect,” the report nevertheless maintained “the UK welcomed Palestinian [Authority] President Abbas’s public rejection of these statements and acceptance of the State of Israel within 1967 borders” as well as calling on “both parties to refrain from statements which legitimize violence and take steps to develop a culture of peace and coexistence where differences are resolved solely through negotiations”.
By contrast, the corresponding report on human rights violations in Iran measured half the length of that accumulated on Israel, with concerns about the continued use of the death penalty, as well as reports of violation of minority rights, including freedom of religion, being detailed.
The report also lauded the successful bid for a resolution slamming the human rights situation in Iran at October’s UN General Assembly, a motion tabled by Canada and co-sponsored by the UK, as it concluded “the human rights situation in Iran between October and December 2012 remained extremely poor”.