U.S. pressing UN Human Rights Commissioner to put off West Bank settlements probe
Israeli Foreign Ministry officials believe the aim of Obama administration pressure is to postpone the probe until at least after the presidential elections in November.
The Obama administration is trying to delay the establishment of a panel appointed by the United Nations Human Rights Council to investigate the issue of Israeli settlements in the West Bank.
A U.S. official conveyed messages to UN Human Rights Commissioner Navi Pillay in the last few weeks, asking her not to advance the matter in the near future.
According to the text of the decision to establish the panel, it is meant "to investigate the implications of the Israeli settlements on the civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights of the Palestinian people throughout the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem." However, the UN Human Rights Commissioner has yet to formulate a clear mandate for the panel and has not appointed a chairman or members.
Foreign Ministry officials noted that the U.S. wants to postpone the establishment of the panel to the latest possible date, hoping this will lead to the unofficial burial of the matter. However, the assessment is that it will not be possible to prevent the establishment of the panel, so the aim is therefore to delay it until at least after the U.S. presidential elections in November.
On March 30, a week after the decision by the UN Human Rights Council, Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon traveled secretly to Washington to meet with his U.S. counterpart Bill Burns. Ayalon asked for help in thwarting the establishment of the panel and even suggested that the U.S. publicly threaten to quit the UN Human Rights Council if the panel is established.
The Americans did not respond to that threat, as they view membership in the UN Human Rights Council as a central issue in the foreign policy of the Obama administration. However, the Americans agreed to pressure the UN Human Rights Commissioner on the date of the establishment of the panel and the mandate that it will receive.
Following the UN Human Rights Council's decision to establish the panel to investigate the settlements, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman decided to halt cooperation with the UN Human Rights Commissioner and her staff and to boycott the proceedings of the UN Human Rights Council.
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A Foreign Ministry official told Haaretz that one of the people who tried to change Lieberman's mind from taking that step was none other than Israel's ambassador to UN institutions in Geneva, Roni Leshno-Yaar.
Leshno-Yaar came to Israel several weeks ago for policy consultations, met personally with Lieberman, and tried to convince him to go back on the decision. Leshno-Yaar said that the damage of the decision would outweigh the benefits.
Lieberman listened to Leshno-Yaar, but did not accept his view. Leshno-Yaar returned to Geneva and received written instructions to cut all ties with the UN Human Rights Commissioner and to not appear at UN Human Rights Council discussions. Consequently, much of the work of Israel's envoy to UN institutions in Geneva was frozen in place.
Incidentally, Leshno-Yaar will finish his role in Geneva in a few months and return to Israel to serve at the Foreign Ministry headquarters in Jerusalem as the deputy director-general of ties between Israel and the UN.