Austria and Belgium’s ambassadors were reprimanded Monday by Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs for being the only two European Union members to support the establishment of a UN investigative committee on West Bank settlements.
Both ambassadors arrived separately for a meeting with Deputy Director General for Europe Rafi Shotz, where they were presented with an official governmental complaint over their countries’ respective votes in the UN Human Rights Council.
Shotz told the ambassadors that Israel is disappointed in their countries handling of the situation, in light of the fact that the other EU member states in the council – Italy, Spain, Czech Republic, Poland, Hungary and Romania – refrained from voting, explaining that there are already mechanisms in place for overseeing such issues, and the establishment of another investigative body would be redundant.
“When you voted, you knew the outcome, as well of how one-sided the decision would be,” Shotz told the ambassadors. “You assisted in the politicization of the Human Rights Council and a decision that will only worsen the relationship between Israel and the Palestinians.”
Meanwhile, Israel’s ambassadors in Oslo and Bern was instructed to pass along as similar complaint to the Norwegian and Swiss foreign ministries, respectively, after they too voted to establish an investigative committee on the issue of the settlements.
The conversations with the ambassadors in Jerusalem came several hours after the Foreign Ministry decided to sever ties with the UN Human Rights Council, as well as with its chief commissioner Navi Pillay.
Rotating President of the Human Rights Council Laura Dupuy Lasserre, who also serves as Uruguay’s ambassador to the UN, called the decision “very unfortunate,” and added that she has yet to receive an official message from the Israeli ambassador.
“I have no doubt that it is in Israel’s interest to cooperate with council’s investigative committee so that it can express its position,” Dupuy Lasserre said.
Lieberman orders to sever ties with HRC
Senior state official says Israel will no longer appear before Human Rights Council, following its decision to probe settlements. HRC says decision ‘regrettable’; Hamas blasts it as ‘Zionist attempt to blackmail’ international institutions
Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman has decided “to cut all ties with the UN’s Human Rights forum” following its decision to probe how settlements may be infringing on Palestinians’ rights, a senior state official said Monday.
“We maintained some kind of a relationship with them despite not being members in the council,” he said. “We will no longer appear before the council or even answer their calls. If they want to visit – we shall not assist them.”
Last week, the HRC passed a resolution ordering a first probe into how Israel’s West Bank settlements may be infringing on Palestinians’ rights. The council called on Israel to take steps like seizing weapons in order to prevent settler violence. It is sending a delegation to the territories to check the effect settlements have on the Palestinian people.
The Foreign Ministry said in response that the council was being used as a tool to further unilateral political steps instead of promoting human rights.
The Palestinians, the official added, were adopting a strategy of unilateralism aimed at avoiding an agreement. “They link everything to settlements,” he said. “Attempts to spearhead uncoordinated projects in Area C as well as efforts in the International Court of Justice are meant to impede any political move.”
The official added that the Palestinians’ aim is to achieve UN recognition using unilateral means.
Despite the bold move to sever ties with the UN council, the Foreign Ministry remains concerned about the political stalemate. Minister Lieberman is working on a series of unspecified steps to end the deadlock.
‘Israeli decision won’t stop HRC’
The UN’s Human Rights Council said Israel’s decision was “regrettable.” HRC President Laura Dupuy Lasserre said that the decision was “very unfortunate,” adding that she has yet to receive a formal notification of the matter.
“I have seen various reports in the Israeli media about this, but I have not received any official confirmation,” she said,
“I have no doubt that it is in the interest of Israel to cooperate with the Human Rights Council on this investigative mission, not least so that it can explain its own policies and actions to the independent commissioners once they are appointed,” she said in a statement.
Asked to comment further, she said recent history showed Israel would not stop the fact-finding mission from gathering information by deciding not to cooperate with it, even if it could not physically gain access to the West Bank or Israel.
“The most recent example of refusal to cooperate is Syria, which did not permit either the Human Rights Council mandated Fact-finding Mission or the Commission of Inquiry to enter the country. On the other hand, in the case of the other two Commissions of Inquiry that took place in 2011, both Libya and Cote d’Ivoire did cooperate, and allowed the Commissioners to visit.”
Meanwhile, Hamas slammed Israel’s decision, calling it a “Zionist attempt to blackmail” international institutions that criticize its policies. “This is proof of the vulnerability the Zionist regime is facing vis-à-vis human rights and the UN,” Hamas Spokesman Fawzi Barhoum said in a statement.
He further lauded the Human Rights Council’s decision to order its probe, saying it will “create a broad international consensus as to the oppression of the Palestinian people and the justice of their cause.”