The United Nations' Human Rights Council on Thursday passed a resolution ordering a first probe into how Israel's West Bank settlements may be infringing on Palestinians' rights.
The resolution was adopted with 36 votes in favor and 10 abstentions. While Spain and Italy have called for abstention, the United States was the only one to vote against the draft resolution.
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Presenting the resolution, a Pakistani envoy criticized Israel. saying that "In violation of international humanitarian and human rights law, Israel is continuing construction of illegal settlements in the occupied territories including east Jerusalem,
"This resolution seeks to respond to the humanitarian and human rights challenges this illegal Israeli practice has created in the occupied territories," he said.
Probe into settlements? (Photo: AP)
The United States said it continued to be "deeply troubled by this Council's biased and disproportionate focus on Israel, as exemplified by the creation of another one-sided United Nations mechanism related to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict."
It was inappropriate to prejudge final status issues that could only be resolved through bilateral negotiations between Israel and Palestine, US political counselor Charles O. Blaha told the Council.
"The US position on settlements is clear and has not changed: We do not accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlement activity. The status quo is not sustainable for either the Israelis or the Palestinians," Blaha said.
But Washington could not back a "one-sided resolution that launches an international investigation of Israel," he added.
Beyond ordering an investigation into the implications of settlements, the resolution also calls on Israel to "take and implement serious measures" such as confiscating arms to prevent acts of violence by Israeli settlers.
But the United States spoke up against the move, saying it was "deeply troubled by this Council's bias against Israel."
"Steps like this do nothing to promote a just and lasting peace," said a US envoy, adding that they only serve to "push parties apart."
Israel's move to expand settlements has been criticized by the international community, which deems the action illegal.
Earlier this week, UN rights chief Navi Pillay said the expansion of Israeli settlements is deeply linked to problems including violence in the territories.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu slammed the UN's decision, calling the Human Rights Council "hypocritical."
"This is a hypocritical council with an automatic majority against Israel," Netanyahu said. "Until today, the council has made 91 decisions, 39 of which dealt with Israel, three with Syria and one with Iran," he said.
Predetermined results? (Photo: Lowshot.com)
"This is a council that should be ashamed of itself. The UN Human Rights Council has no connection to human rights," he said. "This council has proven once more that it is detached from reality, by inviting a member of Hamas – an organization whose creed advocated the murder of innocent people, to speak before it."
A source in Netanyahu's office said Israel would not cooperate with the investigation which he described as biased, adding that Israel did not want to give it legitimacy.
In Geneva, Israel's Ambassador Aharon Leshno-Yaar denounced "the level of hypocrisy and double standards. The resolutions are unjustified and counterproductive. They will add tension and bitterness to an already explosive situation. This Council, by its own doing, is adding fuel to a fire which it is our duty to try to extinguish," Leshno-Yaar said.
Professor Gabriela Shalev, formally Israel's UN ambassador, told Ynet Thursday that "The Human Rights Council is a biased, anti-Israeli body that has passed more resolutions against Israel than against any other UN member.
"When the council was formed in 2006 there was hope that it would change things, but those hopes soon faded, because it doesn’t address human rights issues and it doesn’t monitor what's going on in countries like the Congo, China and Iran, where human rights and the rights of women and children are constantly violated – but those countries escape censure," she said.
UN Human Rights Council at work (Photo: AFP)
"On the other hand, since there are many Arab nations on the council, Palestine enjoys an automatic majority; and the result is that his body is motivated by political interests and not by the desire to protect human rights.
"I think that it is up to the Foreign Ministry to decide whether allow the council into Israel," she continued. "I don’t think that the Foreign Ministry will cooperate… even if some nay think that Israel would be better off demonstrating transparency – in this case transparency doesn’t really exist because the results have already been determined against Israel," Shalev concluded.
Dr. Alon Liel, former director general of the Foreign Ministry, added: "This isn’t the firs time that a UN council wants to review the matter of the settlements, but there is no question that the Human Rights Council is very biased and pro-Palestinian.
"We know what they're hoping to find and what the results will be. The question in cases like these is always the same – is refusing to cooperate better than cooperating. Experience has taught us it can go either way.
"These decisions… have to be considered on a case-by-case merit. If the conclusion is that the results have been predetermined than don't cooperate with it.
"The issue of the settlements is very difficult to explain, PR-wise so the Foreign Ministry usually tends not to cooperate with such review. I have no doubt that the relevant people in the Foreign Ministry are following the situation closely and will make the right decision," he said.
Tomer Velmer and AFP contributed to this report
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