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Israel slams door on UN Human Rights Council over settlement row

Israel slams door on UN Human Rights Council over settlement row
Israeli officials say a UN fact-finding mission “will not be allowed to enter” the country and its occupied territories. On Friday, the Geneva-based Human Rights Council appointed three officers to probe Israel’s West Bank settlement activity.

­The UN's top human rights body has commissioned three jurists to find out how Israel's West Bank settlements affect “the civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights of the Palestinian people.” The body called on Tel Aviv “not to obstruct the process of cooperation.

This resonated harshly with Israel, who took no time to dub the mission “biased and flawed,” vowing not to support the officials.

"The fact-finding mission will find no cooperation in Israel, and its members will not be allowed to enter Israel and the territories,” said Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor. “Its existence embodies the inherent distortion that typifies the UN Human Rights Council's treatment of Israel and the hijacking of the important human rights agenda by non-democratic countries.

Israel cut all ties with the council in March after the 47-nation body passed a resolution establishing the settlement probe. Israel accuses the commission of a “disproportionate focus” on Israel.

"The establishment of this mission is another blatant expression of the singling out of Israel in the UNHRC," a Foreign Ministry statement said on Friday.

Now that the team is to be prohibited from Israel, it will have to gain evidence from second-hand sources, like local media.

But even if the mission finds that the settlements violate human rights, any attempts to punish Israel will most probably be defused by the US, Israel’s key ally.

The UN considers Israeli settlements illegal under international law. The Human Rights Council says Israel's plans to build more houses in the West Bank and East Jerusalem undermine the peace process and pose a threat to the two-state solution.

The West Bank settlements are at the core of dispute between Israelis and Palestinians. Some 500,000 Israelis and 2.5 million Palestinians live in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, a territory that Israel expropriated from Jordan in 1967. Palestinians claim the West Bank is part of their future state, and object to any settlements there.

Israel cites historical and biblical links to the West Bank, saying the status of the settlements should be decided in peace negotiations.