By Al Arabiya with Agencies
The Israeli foreign ministry decided on Monday to cut contact with the United Nations Human Rights Council after it said last week it would investigate Israeli settlements, a spokesman said.
“There was a decision by the foreign ministry to sever work contacts with the organization,” ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor told AFP, adding that Israel had yet to formally inform the council of its decision.
Israel also decided to bar a U.N. team from entering Israel or the West Bank for a planned investigation of Jewish settlements, the Foreign Ministry said.
Israel accuses the council of having a pronounced anti-Israel bias because of what it says is its disproportionate focus on Israeli policy toward the Palestinians.
Israeli leaders have been in an uproar over the council’s adoption of a resolution last week condemning Jewish settlement construction in the West Bank and east Jerusalem and its decision to send a fact-finding mission to investigate such activity.
On Monday, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman announced Israel was severing working ties with the council.
The Palestinians are preparing settlement maps and photos to present to the council, said senior Palestinian official Nabil Shaath. He said Israel will not be able to stop the investigation by cutting ties with the council.
“We will go to any international body that can investigate and impose sanctions,” he said.
Much of the international community sees settlement construction on occupied lands the Palestinians seek for a future state as a major impediment to peacemaking, and has pressured Israel to freeze it.
Israel has moved 500,000 Israelis to the West Bank and east Jerusalem since capturing the areas, along with Gaza, in the 1967 Mideast war. Israel withdrew soldiers and settlers from Gaza in 2005, though it still controls access by air, sea and land.
The Palestinians say continued settlement expansion pre-empts the outcome of negotiations. Israel, which refuses to halt construction, says the fate of settlements and the related issue of the final borders of a Jewish and a Palestinian state must be determined through negotiations, not demands.
Since its creation in 2006, the Geneva-based council has focused heavily on alleged abuses by Israel. After the United States joined in 2009, the council has increasingly addressed human rights problems in other countries. Last year, it created a special investigator for Iran, held emergency meetings on Libya and Syria, and dispatched teams of expert to probe abuses in those countries.
The council will likely keep passing resolutions on Israel while the occupation of Palestinian land continues, its president, Uruguayan diplomat Laura Dupuy Lasserre, said last week.
Israel has had uneasy relations with the U.N. for decades, in large part because of the pro-Palestinian majority in the General Assembly, though the United States has used its veto power multiple times to block anti-Israel resolutions in the Security Council. Israel halted its marginal funding to UNESCO in the fall after the U.N. cultural agency recognized Palestine as a member.
Relations with the U.N. were especially acrimonious over a U.N.-commissioned report by South African jurist Richard Goldstone on Israel’s military offensive in Gaza three years ago, aimed at stopping daily rocket attacks. Israel refused to cooperate with Goldstone’s team, though it didn’t bar it from entering.