The fury sparked in Israel by the UN Human Rights Council’s passage of a resolution Thursday – which ordered a fact-finding inquiry into Israeli settlements and their infringement on the rights of Palestinians – has shown no signs of abating, as the Israeli security cabinet is set to meet Sunday afternoon to discuss possible punitive measures.
The UN body resolved “to dispatch an independent international fact-finding mission” to “investigate the implications of Israeli settlements on the…right of the Palestinian people throughout the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including east Jerusalem.” The resolution, the first ‘fact-finding mission’ authorized by the 47-member Council, was adopted by a vote of 36 to 1, with 10 abstentions. The United States was the lone dissenter. Beyond the predictable reflexive anti-Israel votes (Kuwait, Libya, Saudi Arabia, Norway), Switzerland, Austria, and Belgium were among those that voted for the resolution. Even those countries that have stood with Israel in past UN votes (Czech Republic, Poland, Guatemala, Hungary) only managed to cast abstentions, which in UN forums is often the closest Israel can get to an expression of support.
In the same session, the Council also approved four other resolutions against Israel: on Human Rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (44 for, 1 against [USA], two abstentions [Cameroon, Guatemala]); on the Right of the Palestinian People to Self-Determination (46 for, 1 against [USA]); on the Follow-up to UN Fact-Finding Mission to Gaza (29 for, 1 against [USA], and 17 abstentions); and on Human Rights in the Occupied Syrian Golan (33 for, 1 against [USA], and 13 abstentions). All except for the last resolution were submitted by ‘Palestine’.
Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon said that Israel would not be cooperating with the Council: “We have no reason to continue cooperating with a hypocritical organization which specializes in double-speak and has a mission to smear us…We know in advance what their conclusions will be.” Israel Radio reported that Israel is considering simply barring entry to delegates of the Council. Ayalon also warned the Palestinian Authority that it should not expect “cooperation” from Israel “while it is fighting it in international forums.”
Israel Radio also reported on Sunday that Israel was considering punitive measures against the Palestinians like suspending tax transfers and, according to a report in Yediot Ahronot, freezing an initiative to allocate 5,000 new work permits to Palestinians.
“We have many resources but we will act with discretion and will not shoot from the hip,” Ayalon responded when asked what measures Israel might take.
PM Binyamin Netanyahu responded angrily to the vote, saying the Council “should be ashamed of itself…the Council has made 91 decisions, 39 of which dealt with Israel, three with Syria and one with Iran.”
Avigdor lieberman, speaking to Israel Radio while on a visit to Singapore said, “[t]his hypocritical organization has nothing to do with human rights. Its bias and lack of objectivity are obvious…We will not be actors in this theatre of the absurd, where 70 percent of the council’s decisions are hostile to Israel.”
Lieberman continued to blast the Council on Sunday, saying: “We are considering asking free countries like the United States to withdraw from this organization.” But the US State Department quickly quashed this possibility by issuing a statement that appeared to defend the Council’s work, saying that it had “helped spur action on a series of important human rights situations around the world,” but added that the US condemns the Council’s anti-Israel bias which “continues to unnecessarily politicize the Council’s human rights agenda.”