Israel pans Switzerland for calling Palestine summit

Israel pans Switzerland for calling Palestine summit

Geneva meeting not expected to yield binding decisions; Jerusalem says move calls into question Swiss neutrality

Flags outside the UN's Palais de Nations in Geneva. (photo credit: CC BY kevingessner, Flickr)
Flags outside the UN's Palais de Nations in Geneva. (photo credit: CC BY kevingessner, Flickr)

Israel on Thursday voiced strong opposition to the Swiss government’s decision to convene a conference to discuss the status quo in the Palestinian territories next week in Geneva, saying the move brought into question Bern’s historic neutrality.

Switzerland has invited states party to the Fourth Geneva Convention to attend a summit to discuss the situation in the Gaza Strip, West Bank and East Jerusalem on December 17, despite American and Israeli pressure.

All 196 UN member states are signatories to the Fourth Geneva Convention, and in April 2014 the Palestinian Authority signed accession to the treaty.

“The role of the depositor obliges Switzerland to manage in a neutral and apolitical manner,” the Israeli Foreign Ministry said in a statement. “The decision of the Swiss government to hold a conference of the signatories [of the Fourth Geneva Convention] raises serious doubt concerning its commitment to these principles as it lends a hand to politicizing the Geneva Convention and the laws of war in general.”

Switzerland plans to hold a three-hour meeting of state ambassadors that will be closed to the media, after which a communiqué will be issued, Haaretz reported. According to the paper, the conference “wasn’t expected to make any operative or binding decisions, but may intensify international criticism of Israeli policy” in the West Bank.

The Foreign Ministry condemned the decision to hold the summit, calling it “a political move whose sole aim is to utilize the important stage of the Geneva Conventions for the sake of denigrating Israel.

“Israel, of course, won’t take part in the conference, in addition to other states that clarified their objection to the Swiss government,” the Foreign Ministry statement said, without mentioning which states. Senior Israeli officials had told Haaretz that the US, Canada and Australia intended to boycott the summit along with Israel. It called on all other signatory states not to take part in the convention.

The Foreign Ministry said it was reevaluating Switzerland’s stances on other international humanitarian law issues in light of its decision to hold the meeting.

Israel also slammed the decision of the Irish parliament to adopt a non-binding resolution supporting an independent Palestinian state.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Emmanuel Nahshon expressed disappointment at the decision on Thursday, accusing the Irish parliament of giving voice to “statements of hatred and anti-Semitism directed at Israel in a way which we have not heard before.”

Some Irish lawmakers accused Israel of genocide during the parliamentary debate on Palestinian recognition.

Foreign Minister Charlie Flanagan said Wednesday that Ireland is considering early recognition of Palestinian statehood as a possible tactic for kick-starting Middle East peace talks.

Lawmakers in Britain, France and Spain already have passed similar motions calling on their governments to follow Sweden, which on October 30 ignited debate by recognizing Palestinian statehood.

AP contributed to this report. 

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