The United States on Monday urged the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva to stop its biased treatment of Israel.
It took particular issue the council’s Agenda Item 7, under which at every session Israel’s human rights record in areas over the pre-1967 line is debated. Israel is the only country to have a dedicated agenda item.
“The United States continues to be deeply troubled by this Council’s biased and disproportionate focus on Israel, as exemplified by this standing agenda item,” the US Ambassador to the UNHRC Eileen Chamberlain Donahoe said.
She spoke during a day-long debate on five UNHRC resolutions on Israel and the Palestinians in Geneva, including one which dealt with Israel’s treatment of Syrians in the Golan Heights. One resolution dealt with Palestinian self-determination. Two others condemned Israel’s treatment of Palestinians.
A fourth called on the UNHRC to create a fact-finding mission on West Bank settlements.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu also blasted the UNHRC
for facilitating an event featuring a Hamas politician, on the same day that four French Jews were gunned down in Toulouse.
“He represents an organization that indiscriminately targets children and grown-ups, and women and men. Innocents are their special favorite target,” Netanyahu told the Likud faction in the Knesset on Monday. “They kills Jews anywhere –that’s their constitution – kill Jews wherever you find them – that is what they do,” Netanyahu said.
PA Foreign Minister Riad al-Maliki said on Monday that the fact-finding mission called for by the UNHRC would look at "attempts to confiscate land and settler violence along with the impact of settlement expansion on Palestinian life and basic human rights."
If it goes ahead, the investigation would be similar in format to recent UN inquiries into Syria and Libya, and would involve three or four experts who would report back to the UN human rights body in June.
Unlike the UN Security Council, the Human Rights Council functions by majority vote, meaning the United States and other big powers could not veto the resolution. Israel could still refuse to allow investigators to enter the occupied territories however.
"If this is the case, we will go back to the Human Rights Council to pass new resolutions that condemn the Israeli policy and call for just policies which respect Palestinian rights and offer a clear condemnation of Israel on this issue," Maliki said.
"Certainly we coordinate our steps: first, we will wait for the resolution to pass; second, for the committee to be formed; third, for the to UN to demand Israel allow the committee to enter."
Asked about the fact-finding mission, Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor said, "This is another move by the Palestinians to dodge negotiations and choose a strategy of confrontation. We hope that the countries who aspire to end the conflict through a peace agreement will reject this request."
The probe should look into "attempts to confiscate land and settler violence along with the impact of settlement expansion on Palestinian life and basic human rights," he said.
The US which is likely to veto the probe, did not mention it in its speech before the council and instead focused on the Golan Heights resolution.
“The hypocrisy of this item is further amplified by the resolutions brought under it, including a resolution on the “human rights in the occupied Syrian Golan,” motivated by the Syrian regime at a time when it is murdering its own citizens,” Donahoe said.
She said that her country believed the Palestinians should have a sovereign and contiguous state. It also supported the efforts of the humanitarian agencies on behalf of the Palestinian people.
“The effectiveness and legitimacy of this Council can never be complete as long as one country is unfairly and uniquely singled out for its own agenda item,” she said.
The US “implores” the council to “eliminate these biased resolutions and the permanent agenda item,” Donahoe said as she urged a balanced approach to human rights.
In her speech to the council UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay said that Israel’s “occupation” of the Palestinians had led to “large scale violations of international law.”
At the same time, however, she said that Palestinian rocket fire against Israeli citizens was illegal and unjustifiable. She also urged Palestinian leaders to enforce the rights of free speech and assembly.
PLO Ambassador to the UN in Geneva Ibrahim Khraishi spoke harshly against Israel and West Bank settlers. He called Israel’s military attack in Gaza against Palestinian rocket fire, “unjustified.” In the West Bank, he said, “there were savage attacks by herds of settlers.” He, along with other countries including Qatar and Saudi Arabia accused Israel of the Judaization of Jerusalem
Iran’s representative accused Israel of deflecting attention away from Palestinians by focusing on Teheran’s nuclear program.
Israel’s ambassador to the UN in Geneva Aharon Leshno Yaar reminded the council that his country was the only democracy in the Middle East.
He called on the Palestinians to return to the negotiating table to reach a two-state solution to sovle the conflict between them.
"It is time for the Human rights Council to get back to the real work it is here to do. Work for the people of Syria and Iran and in other places where people's lives actually depend on the international community taking action,” Leshno Yaar said.
The council is set to vote on the resolutions at the end of the week.Reuters contributed to this report.