By Mara Vigevani/TPS
Belgium’s Ambassador to Israel Olivier Belle was summoned to the Foreign Ministry Tuesday as the country continued to reprimand European countries that voted in favor of establishing a UN Human Rights Council inquiry into riots on the Gaza-Israel border on May 14. Monday the foreign ministry summoned the Spanish and Slovenian ambassadors, after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu denounced the Council on Friday as “irrelevant.”
More than 60 Gazans, mostly Hamas terrorists, were killed and more than 1,000 wounded during the clashes.
Belgium, Spain, and Slovenia joined 29 other countries to back the establishment of the commission of inquiry into “all alleged violations and abuses.” Just two of the council’s 47 members, the United States and Australia, voted against the inquiry, while 14 countries abstained, including Britain, Switzerland, and Germany.
Responding to the summons, Slovenian Foreign Minister Karl Erjavec told local media in Ljubliana that Slovenia would “respond” to the move but declined to give details.
“I regret that this measure has been taken. Given the number of the dead and injured and holding the chairmanship of the UN Human Rights Council, we are bound to investigate such matters,” Erjavec said.
The diplomatic reprimand follows a tense exchange between Israeli Ambassador to Belgium Simona Frenkel and Anick Van Calster, the Deputy Director of the Belgian Federal Public Service Foreign Affairs, when the former was summoned to the foreign ministry in Brussels following the events on the Gaza border. In a break with normative diplomatic protocol which calls for a visiting ambassador to remain silent during a diplomatic reprimand, Frenkel told Van Calster that Belgium’s characterization of Israel’s response to the violence as “disproportionate” was one-sided and did not contribute to peace.
“There has never been an independent investigation when it comes to Israeli affairs. And Belgium is the last country that can claim the commission of inquiry would be independent. Prime Minister Charles Michel has already argued that Israel should be punished, so you have already come to your conclusions,” Frenkel said.