Bipartisan Group of 42 U.S. Lawmakers Urges Blinken to Halt UN Commission on Israel

Members of Congress say UN commission's open-ended status will allow for investigations into 'any allegations against Israel in the past or in the future'

Ben Samuels
Jonathan Lis
Washington
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, in August.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, in August.Credit: Patrick Semansky/POOL/ REUTERS
Ben Samuels
Jonathan Lis
Washington

A bipartisan group of 42 House lawmakers wrote U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Tuesday urging him to "lead an effort to end the outrageous and unjust permanent Commission of Inquiry (COI) on the Israeli- Palestinian conflict" created by the United Nations Human Rights Council in May of last year.

The members of Congress – led by staunchly pro-Israel Democrat Rep. Josh Gottheimer and Republican Rep. Vicky Hartzler – recognized the Biden administration's commitment to addressing the council's “disproportionate focus on Israel” after it rejoined the HRC in February 2021, as well as Blinken's statement a month later promising to “continue to uphold our strong commitment to Israel and its security, including opposing actions that seek to target Israel unfairly.”

The COI, which is set to publish its report in June, has gained exceptional status. Unlike previous committees, the COI is not time-limited and enjoys a carte blanche mandate allowing for a wide range of investigations into Israeli actions. Israeli officials consider the COI's members biased and believe that they, along with various other UN committees, are likely to declare Israel an apartheid state this year.

The letter states that the COI's mandate is “designed to accelerate the political, economic, and legal challenges to Israel and undermine its legitimacy by pressuring international legal institutions to take action against Israeli leaders.” Referring to the violence in May of last year, the letter notes that “the COI resolution makes no mention of the terror group Hamas – which initiated the conflict by launching missile attacks on Israel – and does not include any mention of Israel's right to defend itself.”

The members of Congress stress that, in addition to the commission's investigation into last year's conflict with Gaza, its carte blanche mandate will allow for investigations into “any allegations against Israel in the past or in the future, whether in the West Bank or Gaza or in all of Jerusalem, and even within the recognized pre-1967 borders of the State of Israel.”

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken meets with Israel's Defense Minister Benny Gantz, last June.Credit: Jacquelyn Martin /Pool / REUTERS

The letter further highlights that the UN has six other bodies currently investigating Israel, and that officials selected to conduct the COI's investigations allegedly “hold records of anti-Israel bias, severely diminishing the credibility of the Commission.”

“Please know that while Congress may be divided on the Administration’s decision to rejoin the UNHRC, we stand united in urging you to act upon the Administration’s commitment to defend Israel from discriminatory treatment at the Human Rights Council and throughout the UN system,” the letter concludes.

The Biden administration has formally and publicly opposed the COI since its creation, including voting to entirely defund it last month. “The U.S. stands with Israel in rejecting the unprecedented open-ended mandate of this Commission of Inquiry, which perpetuates a practice of unfairly singling out Israel in the UN,” Ambassador Patrick Kennedy said at the time.

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