US State Department accuses UN of singling Israel out in its COI

The United Nations released a Commission of Inquiry report that blamed Israel for the ongoing conflict with the Palestinians.

 US State Department spokesman Ned Price holds a press briefing on Afghanistan at the State Department in Washington, U.S., August 16, 2021. (photo credit: REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque/POOL)
US State Department spokesman Ned Price holds a press briefing on Afghanistan at the State Department in Washington, U.S., August 16, 2021.
(photo credit: REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque/POOL)

WASHINGTON – The US State Department responded on Tuesday to an initial report by the United Nations’ highly contentious Commission of Inquiry, which charged that Israel is largely to blame for the conflict with the Palestinians, saying, “The COI in its current form is a continuation of a longstanding pattern of unfairly singling out Israel.”

State Department Spokesperson Ned Price said, “As we have stated repeatedly, we firmly oppose the open-ended and vaguely defined nature of the UN Human Rights Council’s Commission of Inquiry on the situation in Israel, the West Bank and Gaza, which represents a one-sided, biased approach that does nothing to advance the prospects for peace.

“The report of the commission, released today, does nothing to alleviate our concerns,” he added. “While the United States believes the HRC plays a crucial role in promoting respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms globally, this COI and report do not advance this goal.”

Price went on to say that Israel is the only country subject to a standing agenda item at the council, “and has received disproportionate focus at the HRC compared to human rights situations elsewhere in the world.”

"The existence of this COI in its current form is a continuation of a longstanding pattern of unfairly singling out Israel.”

US State Department Spokesperson Ned Price
 Deputy Minister, Alvin Botes delivers a National Statement at the Annual High Level Panel on Human Rights Mainstreaming under the theme “Thirty years of implementation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child: challenges and opportunities”, at the UNHRC, Geneva. (credit: FLICKR) Deputy Minister, Alvin Botes delivers a National Statement at the Annual High Level Panel on Human Rights Mainstreaming under the theme “Thirty years of implementation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child: challenges and opportunities”, at the UNHRC, Geneva. (credit: FLICKR)

“While no country is above scrutiny, the existence of this COI in its current form is a continuation of a longstanding pattern of unfairly singling out Israel,” Price said in a statement. “We reengaged with and later rejoined the HRC in part to be in a better position to address its flaws, including this one, and we will continue to seek reforms.”

The UN's report

The brief 18-page report by the UN’s “Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the occupied Palestinian territory, including east Jerusalem and Israel” posted Tuesday on the UN website marks the first of what will be an annual report to the UNHRC in Geneva.

The report spoke of Israel’s actions in the West Bank, Gaza and east Jerusalem as a situation “in perpetuity,” saying it was unlikely that it would end without international intervention.

According to Navanethem Pillay, who heads the three-member panel that conducted the probe and who is the former UN high commissioner for human rights, “The findings and recommendations relevant to the underlying root causes were overwhelmingly directed toward Israel, which we have taken as an indicator of the asymmetrical nature of the conflict and the reality of one state occupying the other.”

The UN report plans to focus in part on issues of discrimination by the Jewish state both within and without the country’s sovereign borders.

Price, in his response, said that the United States “remains deeply committed to helping achieve peace for both Israelis and Palestinians and will support actions in the UN that bring the parties together to advance prospects for peace.”

“The United States is committed to advancing human rights in Israel, the West Bank and Gaza,” he said. “Israelis and Palestinians deserve equal measures of freedom, security, prosperity and, importantly, dignity. Promoting human rights and fundamental freedoms is important in its own right and as a means of preserving and advancing the prospects of a negotiated two-state solution.”

Tovah Lazaroff contributed to this report.