(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)
So far, everything about the UN Human Rights Commission fact-finding mission on
the settlements has gone according to script.
The report slammed Israel
for violating human rights and international law, called for a withdrawal from
the West Bank and east Jerusalem, and called for private business to terminate
their business interests in the settlements.
Right on script, nothing new
Likewise, Israel – which boycotted the mission
– issued a
statement afterward that could have been written last year when the mission was
“The Human Rights Council has sadly distinguished
itself by its systematically one-sided and biased approach towards Israel,” the
Foreign Ministry said in a statement. “This latest report is yet another
unfortunate reminder of that.” Nothing new there either.
that the wildly biased Human Rights Commission was going to issue a blistering
report against Israel, just as everyone knew that Israel would summarily dismiss
But just because the conclusions were pre-ordained, does not make the
entire exercise unimportant. From Israel’s point of view this is just another
step in the Palestinian strategy – increasingly successful – for confronting
Israel in the international diplomatic arena, making things increasingly tough
for Jerusalem in the world, keeping it on the defensive, trying to isolate it
and keeping the world’s pressure on.
The UNHRC report by itself has
little meaning, it becomes important – and problematic for Israel – within the
context of this overall Palestinian strategy of keeping up a constant drumbeat
of diplomatic confrontation.
Senior diplomatic officials in Jerusalem are
increasingly expressing concern that the country’s standing in friendly capitals
in Europe and even in Washington is sliding, and that the continuous
condemnations and defeats in the international arena are taking a
“You can’t fight something with nothing,” Prime Minister Ariel
Sharon is said to have quipped to a top aid in the early 2000s, faced with
pressure during the second intifada to move forward on the diplomatic track with
As Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu puts together a
new government, some are advising him to keep those words in mind. He will come
under increasing pressure both from abroad and from inside his coalition, if it
includes Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid, to initiate some step with the Palestinians to
alter the perception that it is Israel – not PA President Mahmoud Abbas – who is
the intransigent party blocking a return to the peace talks.
being discussed in various quarters is the possibility of some kind of
settlement freeze, perhaps outside east Jerusalem and the main settlement
blocks, as an incentive to getting the Palestinian Authority back to the
The logic behind this is that if the PA says yes,
negotiations will begin and the very fact that something is happening will give
Israel a bit more breathing room in the international community. If the
Palestinians reject the offer, then Israel can say it tried, that it took some
measure to move things back to the diplomatic track, but the Palestinians did
Reports like those drawn up by the UN Human Rights Commission
on the settlements have little importance and can be easily discarded when
something else is happening, where there is at least some diplomatic motion,
even if that motion does not lead to movement.
But in the absence of any
diplomatic motion, reports such as these take on more significance because –
essentially – that is all that is out there, and there is no diplomatic motion
which Israel can use to bury these types of reports.