Israel Cuts Contact With UN Rights Council to Protest Probe

Austrian and Belgian ambassadors to Israel were summoned to the Foreign Ministry and reprimanded.

Israel decided on Monday to sever all contact with the UN Human Rights Council and UN Human Rights Commissioner Navi Pillay, in response to the council's announcement last week of its plan to appoint an international committee to investigate the West Bank settlements.

But as of Monday night the Foreign Ministry had not given Israel's envoy to the UN institutions in Geneva, Aharon Leshno-Yaar, specific instructions as to what this meant. A source in the ministry said diplomats in both Jerusalem and Geneva were embarrassed by their inability to answer questions about the decision from reporters and foreign diplomats.

The UN Human Rights Council in Geneva.

One reason for the confusion is that Israel is not even a member of the Human Rights Council. Moreover, the council's decisions are made by its member nations, not by its secretariat or the human right commissioner, which calls into questions the jab at Pillay.

A senior ministry source said that not all of the high-ranking ministry officials who attended Monday's meeting on the issue supported the severance of contact with Pillay or the council's secretariat, but Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman did and he carried the day.

According to the senior source the decision meant "we will not allow visits from HRC members to Israel, and our ambassador has been instructed not to even answer phone calls from them.

"The Human Rights Council secretariat and the commissioner, Navi Pillay, led the move to establish the investigative committee on settlements, which is why we will not work with them anymore or appear before the council."

Meanwhile, the Austrian and Belgian ambassadors to Israel were summoned to the Foreign Ministry on Monday and reprimanded. Both countries were the only EU member states that voted at last week's Human Rights Council meeting in favor of establishing the investigative committee.

The two arrived separately on Monday and met with Deputy Director-General for Europe Rafi Shotz, who gave each of them an official protest from Israel over their countries' votes. Shotz told the envoys that Israel was particularly disappointed because the rest of the EU countries on the council had abstained.

"When you voted, you knew perfectly well what the result would be and how one-sided the decision was," Shotz reportedly told the two ambassadors. "You assisted the politicization of the Human Rights Council and enabled a decision that will make only worsen relations between Israel and the Palestinians."

Similarly, Israel's ambassadors in Switzerland and Norway, which are not EU members, were asked to convey Israel's protest to those countries' foreign ministries, since both countries also supported the investigative committee.

The current president of the Human Rights Council, Uruguay's Laura Dupuy Lasserre, called Israel's decision to cut ties "very unfortunate."