Israel is severing its ties with the U.N. Human Rights Council until further notice, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman declared on Monday. The decision was announced after the council, which has a highly disproportionate record of criticizing Israel, moved to establish a committee to study the ramifications of Judea and Samaria settlements on the human rights of Palestinians.
Lieberman on Monday convened senior members of his office to discuss several potential reactions to the council’s decision, and decided to take the drastic measure of cutting off contact.
“All of our ties with the Human Rights Council will be severed,” he said. “Israel will no longer cooperate with or aid any representative of the council who visits Israel.”
Lieberman’s decision means that Israel’s Ambassador to the U.N., Aharon Leshno-Yaar, will not attend council meetings and will not even speak with council representatives on the phone. Lieberman also instructed Foreign Ministry officials to try to convince U.S. government officials to sever their ties with the organization as well, even if the attempt has very little chance of succeeding.
Lieberman believes the decision to stop cooperating with the council will not have diplomatic repercussions for Israel.
A senior Israeli diplomat said on Monday, “The Palestinians are adopting a strategy of unilateralism to avoid any agreement. Their primary policy is to continue along this line in the hopes of eventually obtaining unilateral recognition in the U.N.”
Hamas leaders denounced Israel’s decision. “The council’s decision to investigate Israeli crimes proves that the Palestinians are justified,” Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum said. “Israel is perpetrating war crimes against the Palestinians and is trying to cover that up. The Zionist occupier’s decision is another attempt to extort U.N. institutions and the international community.”
After the vote in the council to investigate the influence of Jewish settlements on Palestinian rights, the ambassadors of Austria and Belgium in Israel received a verbal slap on the wrist from Foreign Ministry officials for voting in favor of the establishment of the committee, while other EU members voted against the move.
Council President Laura Dupuy Lasserre called Israel’s decision “very unfortunate.” Lasserre said it was in Israel’s interest to cooperate with the investigation “if only for Israel to be able to explain its policies and activities.”
Addressing students at Tel Aviv University on Monday, U.S. Ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro said, “The Human Rights Council is obsessed with Israel and unfair to it.”
Right-wing parties in Israel praised Lieberman’s decision., with Interior Minister Eli Yishai (Shas) saying, “Human Rights Council activities became political, hypocritical and one-sided a long time ago in relation to Israel. In response to anyone who contests the status of the settlements in Judea and Samaria, the government should bolster those settlements even more.”
MK Dr. Ahmed Tibi (United Arab List-Ta’alþ) criticized the decision and said, “After the game of seating diplomats in low chairs, we have arrived at the point of banning the U.N.” He was referring to the controversy over Turkish Ambassador to Israel Ahmet Oguz Celikkol being deliberately seated in a lower chair than Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon at a meeting, a move seen as humiliating by the Arab world and for which Ayalon later apologized.
MK Dov Khenin (Hadash) also citicized the decsion, saying, “This is a dangerous policy. By disconnecting from the world, the government will not isolate it. It will only isolate itself.”