US ambassador empathizes with Israel cutting ties to UNHRC

Council president says ‘It’s in Israel’s interests to cooperate’ with settlement probe; Israel says it will block mission

Raphael Ahren is the diplomatic correspondent at The Times of Israel.

Avigdor Liberman at the Foreign Ministry (photo credit: Miriam Alster/Flash90)
Avigdor Liberman at the Foreign Ministry (photo credit: Miriam Alster/Flash90)

Israel’s announcement that it was cutting off all relations with the United Nations Human Rights Council drew empathy from the US ambassador to Israel and regret from the UNHRC president.

The Foreign Ministry announced the decision on Monday, in response to the council’s decision last Thursday to establish a fact-finding mission into Israel’s settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, a decision that was condemned by the government.

“We’re not going to let them carry out any kind of mission for the Human Rights Council, including this probe,” said Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor.

“We’re stopping all and any cooperation with the council,” a senior Foreign Ministry official added, hours after the ministry’s senior staff decided on the step. “From now on, we will no longer work together in any way, shape or form with any officials from the council, including the High Commissioner,” Navi Pillay, said the senior official. “If anyone from the council calls us, we just won’t answer the phone.”

The official said Israeli diplomats would not interact with the Council in any way, including coordinating any desired visits by the Council or its representatives to Israel.

He also said Israel would try encourage other countries, especially the US to abandon the Geneva-based body, but acknowledged it would be difficult to do so.

Israel accuses the council of having a pronounced anti-Israel bias because of its disproportionate focus on Israeli policy and actions toward the Palestinians. Israel says the council has ignored human rights abuses in countries such as Iran and Arab nations.

The source said that Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman stood behind his description of the Palestinians’ attempt to pressure Israel through international forums as “diplomatic terrorism,” a saying that has drawn criticism even by Foreign Ministry officials.

The source also said Lieberman said it was time to rethink Israel’s policies regarding the Palestinians, but did not give additional details of what form a new policy would take.

US Ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro indicated empathy with Israel’s decision to leave the UNHRC. Speaking at Tel Aviv University on Monday afternoon, he said that the Council displays an obsessive anti-Israel focus and bias, Israel Radio reported.

Shapiro said the US participated in the Council to try to mitigate those biases and hypocrisies. The US was the only state on the Council to vote against the proposal to launch an investigation into Israel’s West Bank and East Jerusalem settlements.

Laura Dupuy Lasserre, president of the UNHRC, said on Monday evening that she had not received an official statement from Israel, but that Jerusalem’s intention to cut ties was “regrettable.”

AFP quoted Lasserre as saying that it would be “in Israel’s interests” to cooperate with the UNHRC probe and explain its actions to investigators.

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