Israel has adopted an automatic response strategy every time the United Nations or human rights organizations release reports it is uncomfortable with. It did so this time, too, when the United Nations Human Rights Council’s investigative fact-finding mission published its findings.
The mission, tasked with evaluating the effects of Israeli settlement construction on Palestinian human rights in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, ruled that Israel’s settlement policy is a violation of the Geneva Convention.
The report said the settlements were “leading to a creeping annexation that prevents the establishment of a contiguous and viable Palestinian state and undermines the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination.” It also said Israel refrains from taking firm action against Jewish extremists who carry out “price tag” attacks against Palestinians in the West Bank, as part of its policy “to drive the Palestinians away from their lands and allow the settlements to expand.”
In an unprecedented move, the committee recommends to states and companies that they stop business transactions with persons and bodies associated with the settlements. The Foreign Ministry responded with indifference, saying, “The Human Rights Council has always taken a one-sided and biased approach toward Israel,” and refrained from responding to the accusations themselves.
Israel may, of course, play the victim persecuted by a wicked international community. It may also decide, unwisely, that the report has no teeth, so it may as well ignore it. But Israel cannot ignore the fact that the report reflects the winds of time blowing not only from the “pro-Arab automatic majority states” but from Israel’s friends as well.
President Barack Obama’s statements about Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s settlement policy leading Israel to the edge of an abyss are no different, in essence, than the UN’s investigative mission’s. In some European states a partial boycott has already been imposed on products from the settlements, and these states’ leaders are not far in their views from the mission’s findings.
Israel would do well, therefore, to treat the report as a summary of the international consensus on its policy in the territories, and acknowledge that this policy is not only destructive to Israel, but has also isolated it in the world and rendered it vulnerable.
The UN’s “built-in bias” against Israel must not serve as yet another excuse for a policy, which at least half of all Israelis oppose.
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