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Israeli Officials Denounce U.N. Rights Council Bid to Study Effects of Settlements (NY) TIMES) By ISABEL KERSHNER JERUSALEM, ISRAEL 03/24/12)Source: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/24/world/middleeast/israeli-officials-denounce-move-by-united-nations-human-rights-council-to-investigate-settlements-affect-on-palestinian-rights.html NEW YORK TIMES NEW YORK TIMES Articles-Index-TopPublishers-Index-Top
JERUSALEM — Israeli officials on Friday rejected any prospect of cooperation with an inquiry called for a day earlier by the United Nations Human Rights Council into how Israeli settlements affect the rights of Palestinians.

Israeli officials here called the council resolution seeking the inquiry a new source of friction between Israel and the Palestinian leadership, but the Western-backed Palestinian Authority welcomed it.

Neither the Palestinians nor the Israelis are members of the council. The measure was adopted with 36 votes in favor, 10 abstentions, and a sole no vote by the United States.

“Israel has no intention to cooperate,” said Mark Regev, a spokesman for the Israeli government, which has a long history of discord with the council in Geneva. “We do not want to legitimize what is illegitimate.”

“Instead of dealing with real issues of human rights in the region,” Mr. Regev continued, “the council has proven itself a disreputable body that is manipulated by autocracies with atrocious human rights records.”

Israel’s foreign minister, Avigdor Lieberman, told Army Radio on Friday that Israel was weighing its steps, “including ending all cooperation with the council.”

Nabil Abu Rudeineh, a spokesman for Mahmoud Abbas, the president of the Palestinian Authority, said, “This is a new international position that supports Palestinian rights and sends a message to Israel from the international community that settlements are illegal and should be stopped in total.”

The United Nations and much of the world considers the settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, territories that Israel captured from Jordan in the 1967 Middle East war, as a violation of international law. Continuing growth in the settlements has been a continuing frustration for the Obama administration. Its 2009 demand that Israel freeze construction yielded a 10-month moratorium, but it expired and the Palestinians will not return to talks without a new freeze.

Israel has agreed to dismantle some small, unapproved settler outposts in the West Bank, but maintains that those settlements it has officially approved are legal and that their fate must be settled in bilateral negotiations with the Palestinians.

Hostility between Israel and the council peaked in 2009 when a fact- finding mission led by Judge Richard Goldstone investigated Israel’s three-week offensive in Gaza that ended that January, and published a scathing report concluding that both the Israeli military and Palestinian armed groups firing rockets against Israel committed possible war crimes. Israel utterly rejected the accusations and in April 2011, Judge Goldstone retracted his statement that Israel had intentionally killed Palestinian civilians in Gaza. Other members of the panel stood by the conclusions of the report.

On Thursday, after the council’s resolution passed, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel said: “This is a hypocritical council with an automatic majority against Israel. This council ought to be ashamed of itself. Until today, the council has made 91 decisions, 39 of which dealt with Israel, three with Syria and one with Iran.”

The Israeli Foreign Ministry added that the council “ridicules itself” by working “to satisfy the Palestinians’ whims and to harm future chances to reach an agreement through peaceful means.” Further, the ministry said, “The Palestinians must understand that they can’t have it both ways: they can’t enjoy cooperation with Israel and at the same time initiate political clashes in international fora.”

Also on Friday, Israel facilitated a delivery of fuel to the Hamas- run Gaza Strip to provide temporary relief for a fuel crisis stemming from a dispute between Hamas and Egypt. Shortages have caused power cuts of up to 18 hours a day in recent weeks.

With the situation in Gaza becoming more urgent, and the supply to hospitals threatened, Hamas agreed to the assistance from the West Bank-based Palestinian Authority and Israel as a temporary measure.

“This is no solution,” Adham Abu Salmia, a Gaza health official, told The Associated Press.

At the request of the Palestinian Authority, which has no access to Gaza, Israel allowed some 450,000 liters of fuel to be trucked through its Kerem Shalom border crossing on Friday, when it is usually closed. Maj. Guy Inbar, a spokesman for the Israeli authority responsible for the crossings, said that amount would be enough for no more than two days.

Over the last year, Hamas stopped paying the Palestinian Authority for Israeli-supplied fuel and relied on cheaper fuel smuggled through tunnels beneath the Gaza-Egypt border. In recent months Egypt has tried to end the practice and to have Gaza import fuel from Egypt legally, also via the Israeli border crossing, a request that Hamas refused. Hamas wants the fuel to arrive directly from Egypt to Gaza.

Hamas staged protests Friday in Gaza to urge Egypt to let the flow of its fuel resume. Hamas spokesman Mushir al-Mashri called on the Egyptians to open the border with Gaza, The Associated Press reported. (Copyright 2012 The New York Times Company 03/24/12)


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