UN Human Rights Council passes 3 resolutions condemning Israel
Human Rights Council slams Israeli policy in the Palestinian territories; Ban calls on Arabs to back talks.
The United Nations Human Rights Council passed three resolutions on Wednesday condemning Israel over its policies related to what it called Palestinian and Syrian territories, but the United States voted against them all.
A further resolution, calling for a fund to compensate Palestinians who suffered losses during Israel's offensive in Gaza 14 months ago, is expected to be passed on Thursday.
One resolution on "grave human rights violations" by Israel Defense Forces soldiers in the Palestinian territories - which was passed by 31 votes to 9, with 7 abstentions in the 47-member Council - demanded that Israel end its occupation of Palestinian land occupied since 1967.
It also demanded that Israel stop what it called targeting of Palestinian civilians and systematic destruction of their cultural heritage, halt all military operations across Palestinian land and lift its blockade of Gaza.
The United States and the European Union, whose seven members on the Council vote separately but generally in unison, opposed the resolution, with both saying it was unbalanced.
Another resolution called on Israel to stop building all settlements and move to withdrawing those now there, was passed by 45 votes with the EU supporting it and only the United States opposing.
The third condemned Israel for what it called systematic violation of the rights of the people of the Golan Heights. The United States voted no, while 15 countries, including EU members, abstained.
The United States, which itself is in a diplomatic row with Israel over settlements which the government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is vowing to pursue, told the Council that the three resolutions would do nothing to help peace.
It said the body was too often being used as a platform to single out Israel for condemnation while rights violations by other countries were ignored.
Britain, which expelled an Israeli diplomat on Tuesday in a row over forged U.K. passports, voted for the settlements resolution, against on Palestinian rights, and abstained on the Syrian vote.
The Council is effectively dominated by a developing country bloc in which the Organization of the Islamic Conference has a strong influence and which is routinely supported by China, Russia and Cuba.
Ban urges Arabs to back Mideast talks
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said Wednesday he will urge Arab leaders this weekend to support indirect talks between the Palestinians and Israelis despite their anger over Israel's approval of new homes for Jews in predominantly Arab east Jerusalem.
He told the Security Council it's crucial for Arab countries to help create a favorable atmosphere for the indirect proximity talks to succeed.
Ban said Israel's announcement on March 9 that it intends to build 1,600 new homes and Wednesday's announcement that it will construct 20 new apartments for Jews in east Jerusalem have created a crisis of confidence as efforts continue to start the indirect talks.
He reiterated that settlements are illegal under international law and must stop.
"We must not let negotiations be disrupted by provocations," Ban said. No doubt there will be tests. The parties must take steps to meet obligations and build trust. Extremists and spoilers must see that the parties are determined to press ahead."
The secretary-general stressed that the Quartet of Mideast peacemakers - the U.N., the U.S., the European Union and Russia - has urged that indirect talks move ahead and lead to direct Israeli-Palestinian negotiations as soon as possible on a final settlement that will establish a Palestinian state beside Israel.
The goal should be to resolve all final status issues within 24 months, he said.
Ban said he will brief the Arab League summit in Sirte, Libya, on March 27-28 on last week's Quartet meeting in Moscow and his subsequent visit to Israel, the West Bank and Gaza.
"I will urge them to support the proximity talks," he said. "I know that the Arab countries are frustrated, and they express their concerns and even reluctance in supporting these proximity talks."
He added that he has spoken to many Arab leaders urging support.
"I'm grateful for their flexibility, even though they have given some conditional support," he said. "This support should continue so that Israel and the Palestinians will continue their bilateral negotiations."
At the same time, the secretary-general said Israel and the Palestinians must do much more to build trust and meet their international obligations.
"There have been too many negative facts on the ground," Ban said. "We need more positive facts - a settlement freeze, a lifting of the blockade of Gaza, an end to rocket fire from Gaza, an easing of the constraints that stifle Palestinian life, prisoner exchanges, Palestinian unity, further security and economic progress by the Palestinian Authority. The list is long and time is very short."