Israel promises reaction to UN blacklist designation, but hasn’t made decision yet

Official says measures will be taken against agencies and personnel, but will not affect aid to Gaza

Lazar Berman is The Times of Israel's diplomatic reporter

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres listens during a UN Security Council meeting at UN headquarters in New York City on April 18, 2024. (Angela Weiss/AFP)
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres listens during a UN Security Council meeting at UN headquarters in New York City on April 18, 2024. (Angela Weiss/AFP)

Israel promised on Thursday that there would be “a reaction” to a United Nations report that included the Jewish state on its list of the worst violators of the human rights of children in armed conflicts.

“We are still in the midst of debating this,” said an Israeli official. “There will be a reaction.”

“There will be some measures taken against some UN agencies and maybe personnel,” continued the official. “We will do this while ensuring humanitarian assistance to Gaza.”

On Tuesday, the UN published its annual report on children in armed conflict (CAAC), which for the first time added the Israeli military, Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad to its “black list.” Israel is believed to be the first democratic country included on the list.

The UN notified Israel of the decision last week, sparking outrage in Jerusalem. The Financial Times reported that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government discussed far-reaching sanctions against various UN agencies operating in Israel, including the possible expulsion of staff.

“It’s still in the making, so I don’t want to say something that is still not decided,” said the Israeli official.

Illustrative: A Palestinian boy carries a water container in Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip, May 31, 2024. (Eyad Baba/AFP)

Also Thursday, the Foreign Ministry said that “deceitful and inflated statistics” in CAAC reports “have fed the antisemitic libel that Israel, and Israelis, have a unique propensity towards killing Palestinian children or causing them suffering. ”

The ministry also said that UN Secretary-General António Guterres, who signed off on the report, has shown “little resolve” to tackle antisemitism within the UN.

An Israeli official said UN reports are skewed against Israel because of “political” reasons.

“We are now at a point that this is no longer a fair and honest dialogue,” said the official. “What’s happening is that the decisions being made are being taken because of political reasons and not because of objective reasons.”

The official said it was “no coincidence” that the decision to include Israel on the blacklist was made by Guterres.

The decision to add the IDF to what has become known as “the list of shame” was due to what the report said was its killing and maiming of children during the Gaza war and attacks on schools and hospitals. Israel asserts that it operates according to international law, taking steps to avoid civilian casualties, and that it only targets sites used by terror groups, which loses them protections afforded by international law. It has recognized that innocent Palestinians have been killed in its war against Hamas but points to the terror group’s strategy of embedding itself within civilian infrastructure and its use of civilians as human shields.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during a meeting at the IDF Central Command headquarters on June 6, 2024. (Kobi Gideon/GPO)

Jerusalem fumed over its inclusion on the blacklist, with Netanyahu saying last week, “The UN has put itself on the blacklist of history today when it joined the supporters of the Hamas murderers. The IDF is the most moral army in the world and no delusional decision by the UN will change that.”

The practical implications of Israel’s inclusion include the establishment of a “monitoring and reporting mechanism”(MRM) by the office of Guterres’s special representative for children and armed conflict Virginia Gamba, the Argentinian diplomat who compiled the report. The MRM will be responsible for holding talks with Israeli officials, setting benchmarks for them to meet to ensure that alleged rights abuses against children are being addressed and providing progress reports to the Security Council.

The UN report also listed the Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad terror groups for killing, injuring and abducting children.

Israeli officials pointed out on Thursday that the report failed to examine the Palestinian Authority, even though it incites children to violence at its summer camps and offers payments to terrorists, including juveniles.

Illustrative: Adult and children survivors of the brutal October 7 Hamas attack on Kibbutz Kfar Aza at Kibbutz Shefayim in central Israel, where they were relocated. December 24, 2023. (Michael Giladi/Flash90)

They also accused UN officials of avoiding seeing the sites of Hamas attacks against Israel on October 7.

“No one in the UN, except for the envoy here in Israel, [initially] came to the kibbutzim to see what happened,” said an official. “Three weeks from the beginning of the war, we told them, ‘Please, if you are reporting you should come and see what happened in the kibbutz.’ They gave various excuses.”

Officials only agreed to come after Israel threatened to go to the press with the refusal, said the official.

The UN report said Hamas’s October 7 terror onslaught in southern Israel and Israel’s war aimed at dismantling the terror group have led to a 155 percent increase in grave violations against children, especially from the use of explosive weapons in populated areas in Gaza.

Guterres said he was “appalled by the dramatic increase and unprecedented scale and intensity of grave violations” against children in the Gaza Strip, Israel and the West Bank, “despite my repeated calls for parties to implement measures to prevent grave violations.”

A Hamas video from October 7, 2023, shows Dror Kaplun, 68, being pushed down a street on Kibbutz Be’eri. Kaplun was confirmed dead in December, after being presumed captive in Gaza. (Screenshot)

Guterres said he was shocked by Hamas and Islamic Jihad’s killing, maiming and abduction of children on October 7, saying nothing could justify these “brutal acts of terror.” And he said he was appalled at reports of sexual violence during the attacks and that these must be investigated.

The magnitude of the Israeli military campaign in Gaza “and the scope of death and destruction in the Gaza Strip have been unprecedented,” he said, reiterating calls for Israel to abide by international law and ensure civilians are not targeted, and that excessive force is not used during operations.

Roughly 8,000 children have been killed in the Israel-Hamas war in Gaza, according to the Hamas-run health ministry. That figure has not been independently verified and dropped overnight last month from some 14,000, leading to further questions regarding the veracity of the data received from Hamas authorities, which was also used in the UN report on children and armed conflict.

In 2023, the report said, 5,698 grave violations against children were attributed to Israeli forces, 116 to Hamas, 58 to unidentified perpetrators, 51 to Israeli settlers, 21 to Islamic Jihad, 13 to Palestinian individuals, and one to Palestinian Authority security forces.

Medics prepare premature babies for transport to Egypt after they were evacuated from Shifa Hospital in Gaza City to a hospital in Rafah, Gaza Strip on Nov. 20, 2023. (AP Photo/Fatima Shbair, File)

It said the process of verifying the attribution of 2,051 other violations is ongoing.

Guterres did, however, welcome an offer by the Israeli government on May 28 to engage with special representative Gamba to develop an action plan.

Jacob Magid contributed to this report. 

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