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UN Body to Vote on Settlement-boycott Resolution

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A worker with flowers in the West Bank Jewish settlement of Petsael, Jan. 9, 2014. An international campaign to boycott settlement products has turned from a distant nuisance into an economic reality.Credit: AP

The United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva is scheduled to vote on five anti-Israel resolutions later this week, one of which includes a call to boycott and divest from West Bank settlements.

The draft of this particular resolution, which is being submitted by the Arab states and the Palestinian Authority, is especially worrisome to Israeli officials because for the first time it includes wording that seems directly derived from recent boycott, divestment and sanction campaigns. Because Foreign Ministry work sanctions have paralyzed Israel’s diplomatic activity, no steps were taken to try to soften the wording of the resolutions or block them.

A senior Israeli official said that the resolution is making officials in the Prime Minister’s Office very nervous. Though the resolution is not binding, its passage is liable to encourage efforts to boycott Israeli and foreign companies that operate in the settlements.

After Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s aides realized that no one at the Foreign Ministry planned to address the issue, they considered dispatching deputy National Security Council chairman Eran Lerman to Geneva to try to convince the United States and members of the European Union to help soften the resolution. In the end it was decided not to send Lerman because the PM's aides concluded that he would be unlikely to wield much influence. Lerman is not accredited to the UN institutions in Geneva, which means he cannot attend UNHRC debates or even enter the UN compound. He would have been forced to meet Western diplomats in their offices or in local cafes.

The draft resolution as published by UN Watch in Geneva states that the Israeli settlement enterprise makes Israel responsible for serious violations of international law, and calls on UNHRC member nations not to facilitate the continuation of these violations. “The direct or indirect assistance of States and private entities to the settlement enterprise constitute obstacles that have frustrated international efforts for the end of the occupation and fulfillment of the right of self- determination of the Palestinian people,” the resolution says.

The draft also notes “the probability of liability, including international criminal liability, for corporate complicity in breaches of international law related to illegal settlements,” and expresses satisfaction “that some businesses have withdrawn from settlements due to awareness of these risks.”

The resolution calls on all nations “to implement the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights in all circumstances, including in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, their territory and/or under their jurisdiction, including those owned or controlled by them, that conduct activities in or related to the settlements, respect human rights throughout their operations, by taking all necessary steps — including by terminating their business interests in the settlements.”

The resolution also calls for UNHRC member states to inform private persons and businesses of “the financial, reputational and legal risks, as well as the possible abuses of the rights of individuals, of getting involved in settlement-related activities, including economic and financial activities, the provision of services in settlements and the purchasing of property, and to prevent and discourage such involvement.”

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