According to reports, Israel declined to attend a United Nations review of its human rights record, scheduled for Tuesday in Geneva. The decision not to attend was confirmed by Yigal Palmor, a spokeman for the Israeli foreign ministry.
The Jewish state, which accuses the UN of anti-Israel bias, stopped cooperating with UN’s human rights organizations last year. Apparently, skipping the review session means Israel would escape the scrutiny and rigorous criticism of its violation of international law for alleged human rights abuses in occupied territories.
Recently, Israel’s policies in the West Bank triggered widespread international condemnation and increased Israel’s diplomatic isolation. The Jewish state’s plans to go ahead with construction in the E1 corridor would block the prospects of establishing a contiguous Palestinian state.
Last year, the UN initiated investigations into Israel’s settlement efforts in the West Bank, a move which the UN considers illegal under international law. The investigations triggered an angry response from Israel.
The UNHRC report points out that Israel, by persisting in building settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, is violating international humanitarian law under the fourth Geneva Convention, which prevents construction of settlements in occupied territories.
The report concludes by highlighting that the settlements are “a mesh of construction and infrastructure leading to a creeping annexation that prevents the establishment of a contiguous and viable Palestinian State and undermines the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination.”
The report invited strong criticisms from the Israeli foreign ministry, which accused the UNHRC of taking a one-sided and biased approach toward Israel.
Palestinians felt emboldened by the report, and consider it another victory after they won a vote last year in the UN General Assembly granting them de facto statehood in territories Israel captured in the 1967 war.
The enhanced diplomatic status gives Palestinians easier access to many of the world bodies, including the ICC, and Palestinian leaders might push to see Israel put before the ICC unless the Jewish state halts the settlements and engages in meaningful negotiations.
This is the first time a country has made a determined effort to ignore the human rights review by a UN body. Advocacy groups warn that Israel’s defiance would set a dangerous precedent and undermine the UN’s authority. In fact, Israel’s decision to stay away from the review has broken established custom of cooperation by member countries, setting a precedent of noncooperation by others.
Moreover, Israel’s persistence to ignore the call of human rights body will put at risk a collaborative peer review process widely valued for shedding light on the human rights practices.
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