European countries supported two United Nations Human Rights Council resolutions that condemned Israeli "occupation" of the West Bank and east Jerusalem, but they rejected a text slamming Israeli sovereignty on the Golan heights as part of their growing opposition to Agenda Item 7.
The Czech Republic and Great Britain, however, stood out for their support of Israel on both of the Palestinian texts, which were approved Wednesday as UNHRC in Geneva wrapped up its 46th session.
The resolution against Israeli occupation of the West Bank and east Jerusalem passed 42-3, with two abstentions. The one against Israeli settlements was approved 36-3, with eight abstentions, including by Austria and Bulgaria. Lastly, the resolution condemning Israeli sovereignty on the Golan Heights, which had the least support passed 26-18, with three abstentions. All the resolutions were voted on under Agenda Item 7.
Israel's Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi attacked the UNHRC on Twitter, stating that it had "once again proven itself to be an anti-Israel, discriminatory, and hypocritical body.
"I thank all the countries who chose not to lend a hand to this circus and the systematic discrimination against Israel," he added.
The United Kingdom, which began a three-year UNHRC term this year, read out a sharp statement condemning the International 47-member body for singling out Israel over Agenda Item 7. This is a UNHRC mandate that Israeli alleged human rights violations must be debated at every session. No other country has such a mandate against it.
British envoy Rita French said that her country opposed all three texts debated under Agenda Item 7, including the one condemning Israeli sovereignty on the Golan.
“Today we will vote against these three resolutions as a vote against Item 7,” French said.
Her country, French said, supports the Palestinian right to self-determination and opposes Israeli settlement activity, but is still opposed to the resolutions that deal with these matters because they were brought forward under Item 7. Similarly, French said, Great Britain believes in legitimate scrutiny and criticism of Israeli actions in the West Bank as long as it did not occur under Agenda Item 7.
“Our votes today are a vote against the persistent disproportionate focus on Israel and the unfair and implicit supposition that Israel’s conduct deserves greater scrutiny than any other country,” French said.
She took issue in particular with Israeli demolitions of Palestinian structures, tents and hunts, including in the herding village of Humsa in the Jordan Valley.
The Czech envoy Petr Gaidusek, whose country had abstained on the pro-Palestinian resolutions last year, changed its vote this year and opposed them, also as statement against Agenda Item 7.
The European Union and Germany also had sharp words for the resolution against Israeli sovereignty on the Golan Heights, an act which they oppose. But they stood with Israel and opposed condemnation of that sovereignty due to the biased nature of the resolution.
Austrian envoy Ellisabeth Tichy-Fisslberger issued a statement on behalf of the EU, explaining Israeli sovereignty on the Golan was a “clear violation of international law.”
But the text that was before them has done nothing to address the imbalance of a text that speaks of the “suffering of Syrian citizens due to Israeli actions but nowhere mentions the suffering caused by the Syrian regime,” she said.
Suggested EU amendments to the text have been disregarded, she said.
“The EU can not support the resolution and the EU member of the UNHRC will vote against it,” she said.
German envoy Michael Frelherr von Ungern-Sternberg said that “while hundreds of thousands of Syrians suffer at the hands of the regime, this text focuses only on Israel.”
PLO Ambassador Ibrahim Khraishi said he was surprised that some countries had discovered that Agenda Item 7 targets Israel, when for years they had accepted the situation.
He blamed the opposition to Agenda Item 7 to the campaign launched against it by former US ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley, who served under the Trump administration. He did not similarly mention the opposition by the Bush administration to Item 7.
Instead he painted the opposition as a leftover remnant of the Trump administration which Khraishi said had attempted to undermine international organs and mechanisms, such as the UNHRC.
"It is important to get over this legacy" and strengthen international law, Khraishi said.
More significantly, the resolutions put forward issues that should have global support, like the right of Palestinian determination.
"It's not possible under any pretext to vote against or to abstain from voting on the right of our Palestinian people to self-determination," Khraishi said.
Those who are against settlements, should also support those resolutions that condemn them, he said.
"If you want to show bias for International law and if you want to show the occupying power that it must shoulder its responsibility according to the law and cease the violations," than Agenda Item 7 should be supported, he said.
"This is our land, we will not leave our land and we rely on our friends in order to put an end one day to this occupation so that we can fulfill our right to self-determination," Khraishi said.
Israel's Ambassador to the UN Meirav Eilon Shahar Item 7 "was not created to improve the human rights of Palestinians, it was created to negate Israel and institutionalize hatred and bias against the only Jewish State."
As long as Item 7 remains on the council's agenda, "it represents a collective failure to address human rights in a fair and balanced manner," Shahar said.
"The removal of Item 7 will not happen unless states act. It will only be achieved by those with a conscience, those who identify not only the hatred that this Item encourages, but the deeper, more troubling reason for this institutionalized bias and hatred against Israel," Shahar said.
Aside from the three anti-Israel and pro-Palestinian resolutions approved Wednesday, an additional anti-Israel resolution was passed on Tuesday.