Israel is considering measures against the Palestinian Authority for promoting a United Nations human rights inquiry into West Bank Jewish settlements, an Israeli official said today.
The government is discussing various options, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak on the record, and declined to go into further detail. Israel has in the past temporarily withheld tax revenue it collects on behalf of the Palestinian Authority as punishment for unilateral diplomatic actions that it views as directed against it.
The UN Human Rights Council agreed on March 22 by a vote of 36 to 1 to send a fact-finding mission to investigate how Israeli settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem are affecting the rights of Palestinians. The U.S., which cast the sole vote against the resolution, said the council is biased against Israel.
Israel said it won’t cooperate with the mission. “Since the conclusions of the future fact-finding missions are already dictated in advance by the resolution on which it is established, there is no point in working together with this travesty of an investigation,” Israeli Foreign Ministry Yigal Palmor said today in a phone interview.
Peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians have been frozen since September 2010, when Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declined to extend a 10-month freeze on construction in West Bank settlements that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has demanded as a precondition for formal talks.
Abbas has subsequently pursued diplomatic steps to win the Palestinians diplomatic recognition as a state by the international community. An effort last autumn to gain full UN membership fell short of the necessary votes in the Security Council. The Palestinian Authority successfully lobbied the UN cultural agency Unesco to accept it as a full member-state last November.
Abbas adviser Saeb Erakat said that any move by Israel to withhold Palestinian tax funds would represent a deliberate effort to destroy the Palestinian economy, and he called for an immediate freeze on settlement-building. The U.S. vote against the UN settlement probe proves its bias toward Israeli positions, Erakat told the Voice of Palestine radio today.
The U.S. vote “reaffirmed its strong opposition to a series of anti-Israel measures that continue unnecessarily to politicize the Council’s human rights agenda,” State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said March 23, according to an e- mailed statement.
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