Israel opposes UN inquiry into threats to Palestinian rights


ISRAEL HAS decided not to co-operate with a United Nations fact-finding mission mandated to investigate how Israeli settlements may be infringing on Palestinian rights.

Prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu reacted harshly to Thursday’s decision by the UN human rights council in Geneva authorising the probe, accusing the body of automatic bias against Israel and being detached from reality.

“The council has nothing to do with human rights. The council ought to be ashamed of itself. Until today, it has made 91 decisions, 39 of which dealt with Israel, three with Syria and one with Iran.”

The 47-member forum adopted the resolution to launch an international investigation by a vote of 36 states in favour, including China and Russia, with only the United States voting against. Ten countries abstained, including European Union members Italy and Spain.

An Israeli official also said “sanctions” were being considered against the Palestinians for backing the move. “The Palestinians must understand that they can’t have it both ways: they can’t enjoy co-operation with Israel and at the same time initiate political clashes in international forums,” a foreign ministry statement said.

Foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman termed the council “ridiculous” and “irrelevant”, saying Israel might recall its ambassador to the body, and would try to convince other countries, including the United States, to leave the UN agency over its “blatant hypocrisy”.

Nabil Abu Rudeineh, spokesman for Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas, welcomed the council decision.

“This is a new international position that supports Palestinian rights and sends a message to Israel from the international community that settlements are illegal and should be stopped in total.”

Israel’s decision not to co-operate with the UN probe is similar to Jerusalem’s boycott of the UN fact-finding mission headed by retired South African jurist Richard Goldstone that arrived in the region to investigate the Gaza war in 2009.

Mr Goldstone himself indicated that the results of his mission might have been less critical of Israel, which, along with Palestinian militant groups was accused of committing war crimes, if Jerusalem had co-operated with the investigation.

In a rare move, Peace Now, the main anti-settlement pressure group within Israel, also criticised the idea of a probe by the UN human rights council, saying that the body had lost its legitimacy long ago.