Israel Reprimands Austria, Belgium Over Vote on UN Human Rights Council

Meetings with Austrian, Belgian ambassadors come hours after Foreign Ministry severs ties all contact with the UN human rights council over establishment of an investigative committee on West Bank settlements.

Austria and Belgium's ambassadors were reprimanded Monday by Israel's Ministry of Foreign Affairs for being the only two European Union members to support the establishment of a UN investigative committee on West Bank settlements.

Both ambassadors arrived separately for a meeting with Deputy Director General for Europe Rafi Shotz, where they were presented with an official governmental complaint over their countries’ respective votes in the UN Human Rights Council.

Human Rights Council - Reuters - March 2012

Shotz told the ambassadors that Israel is disappointed in their countries handling of the situation, in light of the fact that the other EU member states in the council – Italy, Spain, Czech Republic, Poland, Hungary and Romania – refrained from voting, explaining that there are already mechanisms in place for overseeing such issues, and the establishment of another investigative body would be redundant.

“When you voted, you knew the outcome, as well of how one-sided the decision would be,” Shotz told the ambassadors. “You assisted in the politicization of the Human Rights Council and a decision that will only worsen the relationship between Israel and the Palestinians.”

U.S. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said on Monday that "the human rights council could better go to investigating issues where the facts are not well-known and where they can actually make a difference
in bringing a settlement about."

Nuland added however that "we don't accept the legitimacy of continued settlement activity. We oppose any effort to legalize outposts." Nevertheless, she said that the U.S. does not think "that having a fact-finding mission is going to shed any more light that is going to lead to a change in the situation unless and until these parties sit down together and work it through."

Meanwhile, Israel’s ambassadors in Oslo and Bern was instructed to pass along as similar complaint to the Norwegian and Swiss foreign ministries, respectively, after they too voted to establish an investigative committee on the issue of the settlements.

The conversations with the ambassadors in Jerusalem came several hours after the Foreign Ministry decided to sever ties with the UN Human Rights Council, as well as with its chief commissioner Navi Pillay.

Rotating President of the Human Rights Council Laura Dupuy Lasserre, who also serves as Uruguay’s ambassador to the UN, called the decision “very unfortunate,” and added that she has yet to receive an official message from the Israeli ambassador.

“I have no doubt that it is in Israel’s interest to cooperate with council’s investigative committee so that it can express its position,” Dupuy Lasserre said.

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