In a closed meeting on Monday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reportedly said he would reevaluate Israel’s ties with the United Nation’s Human Rights Council in light of the international body’s new report on last summer’s Gaza conflict.
The new came as the commission of inquiry’s report on the 2014 Gaza conflict, released last week, was presented to the council in Geneva. The report concluded that Israel and Palestinian terror groups in the Gaza Strip may have committed war crimes in the course of the 50 days of fighting. The UNHRC was set to vote on the findings later this week.
“As a result of the report, we will consider whether to remain or to leave the council,” the prime minister said, according to Army Radio.
In 2012, then-foreign minister Avigdor Liberman cut some ties with the UNHRC over its probe into Jewish settlements in the West Bank. Israel resumed its cooperation with the council in 2013. Israel is not a member of the HRC, and did not cooperate with the inquiry into last summer’s war, but has been participating in HRC meetings and activities.
During the closed meeting on Monday, Liberman castigated Netanyahu for reversing the decision. “As foreign minister, I ended Israel’s involvement in the Human Rights Council. Why did you change that decision?” Liberman asked.
The UN Human Rights Council report placed blame on both parties but focused more on Israel’s role. It also accepted the Palestinian death count, which has Israel killing 1,462 civilians out of a total of 2,251 Palestinians who died — a 65 percent ratio.
The UN Human Rights Council commission of inquiry presented its findings to a committee in Geneva on Monday afternoon, as some 1,000 pro-Israel demonstrators rallied outside. Commission chairperson Mary McGowan Davis said during the presentation that the fact Israel had not changed its policies in light of information on the number of fatalities and damage in the Gaza Strip raises concerns about the conduct of top Israeli officials. She repeated that Israel may have committed war crimes during the 50-day war.
Davis also stressed that Hamas is not free of responsibility for the conflict’s deadly outcome, as the group intentionally fired rockets at Israeli civilian centers, and dug attack tunnels extending into Israeli territory. She noted that missiles were fired at Israel from populated areas in Gaza, thus endangering Palestinian lives.
Israel’s ambassador to the UN in Geneva, Evyatar Manor, said earlier Monday that Israel decided not to cooperate with the committee, since he said the UNHRC is biased against Israel.
Several Israeli residents of communities bordering the Gaza Strip were taking part in the protests outside the Geneva hall.
At the protest, Adele Raemer, a resident of Kibbutz Nirim, described how the residents at the kibbutz were nearly murdered last year when terrorists emerged from an attack tunnel.
“I am disappointed by the tone at times of the Human Rights Council which insinuates that Israel does not demand accountability from its army,” she said. “I know that in the process of protecting my community, our soldiers have put their lives at risk to save innocent Palestinian lives, aborting vital missions when noncombatant Palestinians were in harm’s way.”
Israel has rejected the Gaza report’s findings.
“The report is biased,” Netanyahu said when the report was released last week. “Israel is not perpetrating war crimes but rather protecting itself from an organization that carries out war crimes. We won’t sit back with our arms crossed as our citizens are attacked by thousands of missiles.”
The Human Rights Council “in practice does everything but worry about human rights,” the prime minister charged. “The commission spends more time condemning Israel than Iran, Syria and North Korea put together.”
Times of Israel staff and Adiv Sterman contributed to this report.