Al-Malki says Israel trying to block UN inquiry 21Mar12 March 21, 2012

Ma’an News Agency  -  20 March 2012

BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) — Israel is trying to thwart Palestinian efforts to secure a United Nations inquiry into the impact of settlements, Palestinian Authority Foreign Minister Riyad al-Malki said Monday.

Al-Malki told Ma’an the PA is asking the UN Human Rights Council to appoint an international fact-finding commission “to come to the occupied Palestinian territory to witness firsthand the illegal Israeli practices violating Palestinian people’s rights.”

Such a commission “will reveal the false claims Israel makes during international circles.

“This will eventually lead to more resolutions supporting Palestinian rights, and that is why Israel is opposing the idea. It is not surprising at all that Israel refuses to cooperate with fact-finding commissions.”

The minister added: “It is natural that the PA addresses international organizations seeking to maintain Palestinian rights, expose false Israeli claims, and hold Israel responsible for all its violations against Palestinian rights.”

The PA will try and pass international resolutions demanding basic rights including freedom of movement, freedom of expression and freedom to access Muslim and Christian holy sites, he said.

“The efforts Israel is exerting to foil Palestinian diplomatic and political endeavors have failed so far and Palestine has recruited huge support and that will be reflected when the UN Human Rights Council votes on the Palestinian bid,” he added.

The probe should look into “attempts to confiscate land and settler violence along with the impact of settlement expansion on Palestinian life and basic human rights,” he said, adding that the proposal for an inquiry was formally tabled on Friday.

If it goes ahead, the investigation would be similar in format to recent UN inquiries into Syria and Libya, and would involve three or four experts who would report back to the UN human rights body in June.

Unlike the UN Security Council, the Human Rights Council functions by majority vote, meaning the United States and other big powers could not veto the resolution. Israel could still refuse to allow investigators to enter the occupied territories however.

Al-Malki said if Israel denies the commission access to the Palestinian Territory, the PA will go back to the UN Human Rights Council seeking a response which will eventually result in more condemnations against Israel by the international community.

“Certainly we coordinate our steps: first, we will wait for the resolution to pass; second, for the committee to be formed; third, for the to UN to demand Israel allow the committee to enter.”

Asked about the fact finding mission, Yigal Palmor, a spokesman for the Israeli Foreign Ministry, said: “This is another move by the Palestinians to dodge negotiations and choose a strategy of confrontation. We hope that the countries who aspire to end the conflict through a peace agreement will reject this request.”

Settlements are illegal under international law.

Golan Heights tension

US Ambassador Eileen Chamberlain Donahoe did not mention the Palestinian request for an inquiry when she addressed the UN forum in Geneva on Monday. But she did say that the council was biased and had a disproportionate focus on Israel, adding it should hold all countries to the same standards.

The debate also gave an opportunity for the Syrian delegate to complain about Israel’s behavior in Syria’s Israeli-occupied Golan Heights.

But Donahoe said it was hypocritical to hold a debate that included a resolution on human rights in the Golan Heights, saying it was “motivated by the Syrian regime at a time when it is murdering its own citizens”.

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay cataloged abuses by both sides, recommending a series of “small steps” that each country could take to improve human rights now, without waiting for advances in the Middle East Peace Process or any other development.

“Doing so will not only improve the lives of civilians; it will demonstrate the leaders’ commitment to the goal of living side by side in peace and security,” she said.

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