Israeli diplomats said scrambling to nix UN rights probe into Gaza deaths

Arab countries expected to propose independent inquiry into border violence at Friday meeting; measure likely to pass amid widespread anger even among European allies

Palestinians who live in Thessaloniki burn USA and an Israeli flags in front of the US consulate during a demonstration on May 17, 2018, to denounce the bloodshed along the Gaza border and the relocation of the US embassy to Jerusalem.  (AFP/Sakis MITROLIDIS)
Palestinians who live in Thessaloniki burn USA and an Israeli flags in front of the US consulate during a demonstration on May 17, 2018, to denounce the bloodshed along the Gaza border and the relocation of the US embassy to Jerusalem. (AFP/Sakis MITROLIDIS)

Israeli official reportedly fear the top UN human rights body will order a probe into violence on the Gaza border Friday, with diplomats making a long-shot bid to stymie the initiative.

The UN Human Rights Council, an inter-governmental body of UN member states, is scheduled to hold a special session early Friday afternoon to discuss the recent violent clashes on the Gaza border in which dozens of Palestinians were killed by Israeli fire.

Arab countries are expected to put forward a resolution backing an investigation into the border clashes, in which 62 Palestinians were killed by Israeli fire according to the Hamas-run Gaza health ministry.

Though the measure is expected to easily pass, Israeli diplomats have been lobbying governments on the council to quash the proposal, according to a Thursday report by Israel’s Channel 10 news.

According to the report, the envoys were told by Jerusalem to argue that an investigation will only worsen tensions in the region.

IDF soldiers monitor the Gaza security fence during violent protests along the border on May 14, 2018. (Israel Defense Forces)

European countries are reportedly negotiating with Palestinian officials and Arab countries to soften the language of the proposal.

“We need to act, even if it’s against all odds an investigatory committee won’t be formed,” MK Tzipi Livni, a former justice minister and foreign minister, from the opposition Zionist Union, wrote on Twitter Thursday.

The chances of blocking or even softening a measure are slim though, and even European allies have called for investigation over the scenes of violence at the border Monday, which culminated after several weeks of mass protests at the Gaza fence that saw over 100 Palestinians killed since late March.

The UN’s special rapporteur on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has said Israel could be prosecuted for war crimes.

Jerusalem has blamed the Hamas terror group that rules the Strip for the violence, saying it co-opted the protests and has used them as cover to attempt border infiltrations and attacks on Israelis. On Wednesday, a Hamas official said 50 of the 62 killed on Monday and Tuesday were members of the group.

A Palestinian man uses a slingshot during clashes with Israeli forces along the border with the Gaza strip east of Khan Younis on May 14, 2018. (AFP PHOTO / SAID KHATIB)

On Wednesday, France said it would support a proposal by the UAE for a probe into the violence.

Foreign ministers at an extraordinary meeting of the Arab League in Cairo Thursday also called on the United Nations to form an international committee to investigate the killings.

They adopted a resolution calling for “a clear mechanism to hold Israeli officials accountable and bring them to trial over this crime.”

On Tuesday, the spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights slammed Israel for the “appalling, deadly violence in Gaza,” and called for an independent inquiry into the violence.

The High Commissioner is the UN’s office for promoting human rights and works alongside the UNHRC.

Israel has long regarded the UNHRC as circumspect and one-sided against the country.

Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, UN high commissioner for human rights, is pictured on a TV screen during the opening of the 36th session of the Human Rights Council in Geneva on September 11, 2017. (Laurent Gillieron/ Keystone via AP)

Israel is the only country that has a dedicated agenda item at the council, a mechanism that the United States and some European countries have criticized.

On Thursday, Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman called for Israel and the United States to withdraw from the United Nations Human Rights Council over what he termed the panel’s “hypocrisy” in criticizing the Jewish state’s Gaza policy.

Israel is not a member of the UNHRC. The council has 47 seats and its members are elected by the General Assembly for three-year terms.

US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley walks out of the chamber Palestinian Ambassador Riyad Mansour begins to speak at a UN Security Council meeting concerning the violence at the border of Israel and the Gaza Strip, at United Nations headquarters, May 15, 2018 in New York City. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images/AFP)

The current US term is set to end in 2019, though ambassador Nikki Haley has repeatedly threatened to walk away from the body for its anti-Israel biases.

The body currently has investigations in several countries, including Myanmar, Yemen, Burundi, and South Sudan. In 2014, it ordered a probe into the war between Israel and Hamas-led fighters in Gaza. Israel refused to cooperate with the fact-finding mission.

In March, Israel slammed the UN Human Rights Council as a “sham” after it passed five new anti-Israel resolutions, saying the body was being used by “bloodthirsty dictatorships” to mask their own abuses.

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