Deputy FM Makes Urgent U.S. Visit in Effort to Nix UN Settlement Probe

Danny Ayalon sent to Washington to seek U.S. help in thwarting UN Human Rights Council probe of settlements, Haaretz has learned.

Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon made a lightning, secret visit on Thursday to Washington to seek U.S. help in thwarting the work of a UN-sponsored international committee to probe the West Bank settlements.

Haaretz has learned that Ayalon was sent to Washington to meet with senior administration officials over the decision of the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council decision, announced last week.

Danny Ayalon - Archive photo: Tess Scheflan - 08012012
Archive photo: Tess Scheflan

Ayalon conveyed a message to the American administration that Israel wants the United States to act to limit the committee’s mandate so its recommendations will be less binding.

According to a senior Israeli official, Ayalon was in Washington for only 24 hours, and met with Deputy Secretary of State William Burns. Ayalon had no other meetings scheduled.

The Foreign Ministry kept Ayalon’s special mission under wraps, although in Washington, his meetings appeared on the calendar the U.S. State Department issues every day. A clandestine visit such as this is not the norm for Ayalon, who releases frequent press statements on his activities.

Ayalon conveyed to Burns a request that the United States not cooperate with the committee and cease cooperation with the Human Rights Council on the Israel-Palestinian conflict.

Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, who decided to cut ties with the UN Human Rights Council and its commissioner following the establishment of the committee, said he also wanted to ask the United States and other countries that are members of the council to resign.

The chances of success for such a move are nil, considering that the Obama administration views the Human Rights Council as a key element in its foreign policy.

But Lieberman has said in private conversation over the past few days that Israel should at least try to urge the United States and other countries to oppose the probe.

Meanwhile, foreign diplomats say Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has dropped a planned threat to dismantle his autonomy government to protest the deadlock in peace efforts with Israel. Abbas had been planning to deliver the threat in a letter to Israel. But, according to a copy of the letter obtained Thursday by The Associated Press, the language has been dropped from the text. The diplomats who provided the letter said Abbas scrapped the threat at the urging of President Barack Obama.

The diplomats spoke on condition of anonymity because the letter had not yet been sent.