Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman on Thursday 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. The current US term is set to end in 2019.
Liberman’s comments came the day before the UNHRC, an inter-governmental body of UN member states, was scheduled to hold a special session to discuss the recent violent clashes on the Gaza border in which dozens of Palestinians were killed by Israeli fire.
“Israel is facing a double assault,” Liberman said in a statement. “The terror assault from Gaza and a hypocritical assault led by the UN Human Rights Council. All the condemnations are intended to prevent Israel from defending itself. They won’t succeed.”
“We need to stop lending a hand to this hypocrisy-fest, immediately leave the Human Rights Council, and also act vigorously for the United States to join in that measure,” he said.
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. At the time, Liberman, a former foreign minister, said in a tweet that Israel “has no business being in the UN’s Human Rights Council.” He said its “presence there gives legitimacy to…anti-Semitic resolutions, and the farce must end.”
Days earlier, the United States had warned that it was losing patience and again threatened to quit the council after the Geneva-based body adopted five resolutions condemning Israel, one of which called on Israel to relinquish the Golan Heights strategic ridge to war-torn Syria. At the time, US Ambassador Nikki Haley said in a statement that the council was “grossly biased against Israel,” noting that it had adopted only three resolutions separately targeting North Korea, Iran, and Syria.
Haley has over the past year repeatedly warned that the United States was ready to walk away from the 47-member body established in 2006 to promote and protect human rights worldwide.
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.
The Hamas-run Gaza health ministry said Tuesday that 62 Palestinians were killed and over 2,700 injured in clashes along the border on Monday and Tuesday. A Hamas official on Wednesday acknowledged that 50 of the Palestinians reported killed were members of the Islamist terrorist group; Islamic Jihad said Tuesday that three of the dead were its members.
Israel claims that Hamas, which rules the Strip and openly calls for Israel’s destruction, was spurring the violence and using it as cover for attacks.
The border protests thinned out Tuesday with only some 4,000 said to join the border protests, according to the IDF. That was compared to some 40,000 Palestinians who participated in violent riots along the security fence on Monday.
On Wednesday, although the rioting had largely ceased, there were three cross-border exchanges including shots said to have been fired from Gaza that hit residential buildings in Sderot, causing damage but no injuries, the army said. The IDF responded with overnight airstrikes against Hamas targets in Gaza.
On Tuesday, the spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights slammed Israel for the “appalling, deadly violence in Gaza.”
The High Commissioner is the UN’s office for promoting human rights and works alongside the UNHRC.
“The rules on the use of force under international law have been repeated many times but appear to have been ignored again and again,” the statement read. “It seems anyone is liable to be shot dead or injured: women, children, press personnel, first responders, bystanders, and at almost any point up to 700m from the fence.”
The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights called for an independent inquiry into the violence.
Also Tuesday, the US blocked a UN Security Council statement that would have also called for an independent inquiry into the Israeli response to the violence.