Analysis: Looking at the cup half-full in UN human rights council vote

Israel was faced with a choice: either a watered-down resolution without any real operative significance that the EU countries would support, or a much tougher resolution.

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July 5, 2015 02:00
3 minute read.
Geneva

Overview of a Human Rights Council special session at the United Nations in Geneva. (photo credit: REUTERS)

 
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In Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s angry reaction Friday to the passage of yet another anti-Israel UN Human Right’s Council resolution, one element was noticeably absent – expression of anger or frustration at the EU countries on the council that voted for it.

All eight EU countries on the panel – including countries like Germany, the Netherlands and Britain, which have governments supportive of Israel – voted for the resolution, joining such human rights stalwarts as Cuba, China and Venezuela.

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Yet, Netanyahu, not one necessarily shy of pointing out European hypocrisy on Israel, stayed mum until later in the day, when he said that the body was unnecessarily harsh on Israel and "is not really interested in facts and human rights."

The reason is that while the EU countries – which also included France, Latvia, Estonia, Ireland and Portugal – voted for the resolution, they (or at least some of them) also worked to water it down.

Israel was faced with a choice: either a watered-down resolution without any real operative significance that the EU countries would support, or a much tougher resolution – similar to the one passed in endorsing the Goldstone Committee findings in 2009 – which the EU countries would either vote against or abstain on.

Jerusalem preferred the first option, since the resolution adopted – Israel believes – puts an end to the farce of the UN Human Rights Council’s investigative committee on last summer’s Gaza war, a farce that began with the appointment of a biased chairman in William Schabas, who stepped down after revelations he was paid for legal counsel provided to the PLO a few years ago.

In 2009, the UNHRC passed a much tougher resolution against Israel following the Goldstone Report on Operation Cast Lead, a resolution that threw the issue to the UN General Assembly and significantly hurt Israel in public opinion.



Four EU countries joined the US and Ukraine in voting against that resolution, while two other EU countries abstained and Britain and France did not vote.

But the resolution that passed on Friday was much more mild in tone, and – though Jerusalem would have liked to see the democratic countries on the council vote against it or at least abstain – it is not viewed as a resolution that will cause Israel any real damage. In other words, Goldstone this isn’t.

The better news in Friday’s vote is that India, which in 2009 voted for the Goldstone resolution and against Israel, abstained this time around. Not only did India vote against Israel in that 2009 vote, but it has done so in almost every Israeli- related voted in the UN.

That India’s representative in Geneva abstained on Friday is a significant shift testament to the strong ties that have developed between Israel and India over the last 20 years, and which are taking off now under Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who is scheduled to visit Israel at the end of the year for the first-ever visit here by an Indian prime minister. This is a huge development for India, one of the leaders of the Non-Aligned Movement, which as a movement always voted against Israel.

In December, The Hindu newspaper, reporting on discussion in the Indian government of altering India’s supporting vote for the Palestinians at the United Nations to one of abstention, noted that such a move – if taken – would be a “tectonic shift in the country’s foreign policy.”

Well, on Friday, that shift took place – and its implications for Israel’s foreign relations are positive, dramatic and significant.

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