Israel, U.S. Working to Block UN Resolution on 'Black List' of Settlement-linked Firms

UN Human Rights Council to vote on Palestinian initiative calling on international companies to avoid direct or indirect transactions with businesses linked to the West Bank.

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Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas (C) receives messages from delegates after addressing the UN Human Rights Council on October 28, 2015
Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas (C) receives messages from delegates after addressing the UN Human Rights Council on October 28, 2015Credit: AFP

Israel and the United States are making intense diplomatic efforts to block a resolution slated to be voted on Thursday by the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva that would obligate the organization to draw up a list of all Israeli and international firms operating directly or indirectly in the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and the Golan Heights, senior Israeli and Palestinian officials said.

The resolution was a Palestinian initiative being advanced with the help of Egypt, Pakistan and other Arab and Muslim countries. The resolution includes a condemnation of the settlements, stating that they are illegal under international law, and calls on the world’s countries to refrain from providing any assistance of any kind to the settlements and to warn companies and businesses against entering into business transactions in the settlements so as not to risk being involved in human rights violations. The resolution also calls on international companies to avoid direct or indirect transactions with the settlements.

UN Human Rights Council in Geneva Credit: AP

But what’s even more worrisome to Jerusalem is Article 17 of the resolution, in which the UNHRC asks the UN high commissioner for human rights “to produce a database of all business enterprises [both Israeli and international – B.R.] involved in the activities in the settlements,” that would be updated once a year.

The activities detailed in the resolution are not just settlement construction but even the supply of construction materials or equipment, the supply of monitoring equipment for the separation barrier, the supply of equipment used in home demolitions, supplying security services or equipment to the settlements or supplying financial or banking services that aid the settlements, including loans and home mortgages.

Israel over the past several weeks has been trying to scuttle the entire resolution or at the very least get Article 17 removed. Israeli ambassadors in various capitals around the world were instructed to convey to the highest echelons that Israel was asking them to oppose the resolution. A senior Israeli official noted that the United States has been helping Israel and has made its objections to the resolution known to the UNHRC’s member countries.

The senior official said that Jerusalem hopes that because there is a consensus among European Union members against the “blacklist” clause, and in light of the opposition by the United States, Panama, Paraguay, and possibly some African countries, that the Palestinians would prefer to remove the problematic section and make do with a more symbolic and declarative resolution that contains no practical measures.

A senior Palestinian official told Haaretz, however, that despite the pressure from the United States and the U.K. to remove Article 17, the Palestinians were determined not to give in.

“There’s an order from President Mahmoud Abbas and PLO Secretary-General Saeb Erekat to the Palestinian delegation to the UN institutions in Geneva to insist that the resolution be put to a vote as is,” the official said. “Based on our data, in its current version, even without the Europeans, the resolution will win a majority and pass.”

The senior Palestinian official said the Palestinians ascribe great importance to this resolution and the fact that it will produce a UN list of all companies that have direct or indirect connections to the Israeli settlement enterprise. They believe that such a list bearing the UN “stamp of approval” will influence many international companies to cut off their business dealings with the settlements or with Israeli companies that operate in the settlements.

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