FM considers withdrawing envoy from UNHRC

36 to 1 vote to create fact-finding mission investigating effects of settlements on Palestinian human rights.

UNHRC headquarters 311 (R) (photo credit: REUTERS)
UNHRC headquarters 311 (R)
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman said Friday that he was considering withdrawing the Israeli ambassador to the UN Human Rights Council and severing ties with the body, following its establishment of a fact-finding mission to probe the effects of settlements on Palestinian human rights.
Liberman added that he will convene a meeting in the foreign ministry to discuss the possibility that Israel will not cooperate with the council in their investigation.
During a meeting with President of Singapore Tony Tan Keng Yam, the foreign minster also said that he will try to persuade countries such as the United States to quit the council too.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu reacted to the decision on Thursday, saying the council is “hypocritical” and should be “ashamed of itself.”
It is the first such fact-finding mission by the council. The council, which met in Geneva, also approved four other resolutions against Israel, including one opposing its actions on the Golan Heights.
By a vote of 36 to 1, with 10 abstentions, the council decided to dispatch the fact-finding mission to “investigate the implications” of the settlements on “the Palestinian people throughout the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including east Jerusalem.”
Only the US called the resolution biased and voted against it.
It also rejected the other four resolutions.
Europe was divided on the fact-finding mission, with Norway, Switzerland, Belgium, Austria and Russia voting for the measure, and Italy, Spain, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Romania and Moldova abstaining.
Among other countries with whom Israel has good ties who voted for the measure were Angola, Nigeria, Uganda, China, India, the Philippines, Thailand, Chile, Mexico, Peru and Uruguay.
The other countries that abstained were Guatemala, Costa Rica and Cameroon.
“This is a hypocritical council with an automatic majority against Israel,” Netanyahu said in response.
“This council ought to be ashamed of itself,” he said. “Until today, the council has made 91 decisions, 39 of which dealt with Israel, three with Syria and one with Iran.”
“One only had to listen to the Syrian representative speak about human rights at the council on Thursday to understand how detached from reality it is,” he said.
Another proof of its distance from reality, Netanyahu added, was the fact that this week it facilitated the lecture of an activist from Hamas at an NGO side event in its building.
Hamas is an organization whose ideology is based on “the murder of innocents,” he said.
The Foreign Ministry released a statement saying that the resolution was “yet another surrealistic decision” from the council that is more interested in promoting a one-sided political agenda than in human rights.
“While all over the Middle East human rights are violated in an unprecedented scale, the HRC ridicules itself by dedicating its time and resources to establish a superfluous and extravagant body whose sole purpose is to satisfy the Palestinians’ whims and to harm future chances to reach an agreement through peaceful means,” the statement said. “The Palestinians must understand that they cannot have it both ways: they cannot enjoy cooperation with Israel and at the same time initiate political clashes in international forums.”
The statement said that had the Palestinians truly been interested in solving the settlement issue, they would immediately resume negotiations on all the core issues. “Their deliberate choice to foster confrontation and provocation rather than compromise and reconciliation is nothing but a destructive strategy that the international community should firmly reject,” the statement read.
The Goldstone Commission following 2009’s Operation Cast Lead in Gaza that accused Israel of war crimes originated through a similar type of decision by the Human Rights Council. Israel did not cooperate with that committee.
A government official said Israel would not “cooperate with a kangaroo court.” The official added, “We are not going to make something illegitimate legitimate.”
US representative to the council Charles Blaha warned it that a fact-finding mission would sap resources and time as well as push the Israelis and Palestinians further apart.
Italy and Spain issued a statement to the council in which they said they believed that settlements were illegal under international law.
“However, a fact-finding mission would be a duplication of existing mechanisms. It will not help redress an overall scenario which advocates for, absolutely advocates for, serious negotiations and a clear political will to carry them on,” they said.
The Czech Republic made a similar statement.
Austria, however, supported the measure even though it felt that the proposal was not flexible enough and that other alternatives might have been sought.
Still, Austria said it agreed in principle that settlements were illegal, present an obstacle to peace and threaten a two-state solution.
“Austria and the EU and the international community have repeatedly called on the government of Israel to end all settlement activity,” it said.
A PA spokesman said he hopes the decision will send a message to Israel.
Herb Keinon, Tovah Lazaroff in Brussels and Khaled Abu Toameh contributed to this report.