Israel threatens to review cooperation with Swiss over Geneva debate on PA territories
On December 17, permanent representatives to the UN in Geneva will examine respect for international humanitarian law in the Palestinian Authority’s (PA) assigned territories. The special session is set to address the conditions of Palestinians living in Judea and Samaria, the Gaza Strip, and eastern Jerusalem.
Switzerland convened the meeting following a request from the Palestinian Authority after joining the convention in April. This followed another stumbling block in US-sponsored peace talks. Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas wrote to the Fourth Geneva Convention calling for a special session.
In a statement issued on Thursday evening, Foreign Ministry spokesman Emmanuel Nachshon said that Israel will not only boycott the conference, but will also reconsider its cooperation with other Swiss diplomatic initiatives.
He said Israel views the Swiss government’s decision to accede to Palestinian demands to convene a meeting of signatories to the Geneva Conventions "very gravely," and urged countries where the Fourth Geneva Convention is relevant to boycott the meeting.
"Via this decision, Switzerland is lending a hand to the politicization of the conventions and the laws of war in general. Convening the signatory states is a political move, whose only purpose is to exploit the important platform of the Geneva Conventions for attacking Israel," Nachshon said.
Switzerland must act in a "neutral and apolitical manner," the Foreign Ministry spokesman pointed out, noting that the meeting has been summoned at a time when "many other conflicts are being waged throughout the world, including in theaters where atrocities are taking place right now."
Israel and the United States are not expected to attend the conference. Swiss President Didier Burkhalter told local media he expected "very large participation."
"Our objective is to advance the cause of international humanitarian law," AFP quoted Burkhalter as saying.
"Even if Israel and the United States boycott the meeting, the international community must speak on the issue.
There is no denigration of Israel planned from Switzerland," he said.
The Fourth Geneva Convention, adopted in 1949, focuses on the protection of civilians in armed conflict zones and occupied territories. The treaty states that the occupying power must preserve the human rights of the civilian population. In its 65-year history, it has met only twice - in 1999 and 2001 - both times to discuss the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Although Israel is also party to the convention, the Knesset has never signed the treaty into law.
Israel does not consider the Geneva Convention treaty relevant in regard to the so-called "occupied territories", which it formally considers "disputed."
In late November, Israel, along with the US, Canada and Australia, tried to dissuade nearly 200 states that make up the Fourth Geneva Convention from convening a special session in regard to the Israel-Palestinian conflict, Israeli news source Arutz Sheva reported. However, Switzerland came under pressure from the PA and Arab states to proceed with the meeting.
Earlier, it was reported that the conference will have few speeches and no media coverage except for a statement to the press to be released at the end of the meeting.
"We made it clear we didn’t want a political event or debate club, or a conference that would blame or criticize one of the sides," a Swiss diplomat said in November.