Wednesday

26th Jun 2019

EU rebuke masks ongoing divisions on Israel

  • Former Turkish ambassador: 'I am sure that if there had been a fourth option, some of the member states would have taken it' (Photo: the half-blood prince)

The EU's mild rebuke of Israel over its avowed boycott of the UN Human Rights Council (UNHCR) masks the fact that several member states sympathise with Israel's view.

"The EU ... regrets Israel's announced disengagement from the Human Rights Council. This UN body should be able to address all human rights issues and situations. It is a place open for debate, where it is important to have all voices present," EU foreign relations spokesman Michael Mann said on Tuesday (27 March).

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

The official line comes after Israel said on Monday it is severing all contact with UNHCR top envoy, Navi Pillay, because the Geneva-based institution wants to send her on a fact-finding mission to see what Israeli settlers are doing in the West Bank.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the UNHCR is "hypocritical" and "detached from reality" because it lets delegates from Syria and Palestinian militants Hamas speak at its meetings.

Foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman accused Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas of orchestrating the decision in what he called an act of "diplomatic terror."

An Israeli foreign ministry spokesman called the decision "surrealistic" because the UNHCR should talk about Arab dictators instead. The ministry also summoned Austria and Belgium's ambassadors to Israel for an official dressing-down after the two countries voted in favour of the move.

The Yes vote by the two EU states stood in contrast to abstentions by the six other EU countries which currently hold UNHCR membership: the Czech Republic, Hungary, Italy, Poland, Romania and Spain.

Only the US voted No. The other 39 members - including China, Norway, Russia and Switzerland - voted Yes.

For its part, the European External Action Service (EEAS) had tried to ensure there was a concerted EU position on the Navi Pillay mission. But EU division on Irsael is nothing new.

The last time there was a UN vote on Israel - in November 2011 on whether Palestine should be allowed to join its heritage body, Unesco - five EU countris voted No, 11 voted Yes and 11 abstained. The time before that - in 2010, on a UNHCR resolution on Israel's assault on the Gaza flotilla - there was also a three-way split.

"I am sure that if there had been a fourth option, some of the member states would have taken it," Turkey's former EU ambassador Selim Kuneralp commented on the 2010 voting.

Meanwhile, it is unclear what Israel's anger at the UNHCR, Austria and Belgium will mean in practice.

Asked whether Pillay will be allowed to go to the West Bank on her fact-finding tour, the spokesman of the Israeli mission to the EU, Yoel Mester, told this website: "We have no intention of co-operating with this mission."

Asked if there will be consequences for Israeli-Austrian and Israeli-Belgian relations, he said: "We are very much disappointed by this vote and we voiced this through the proper diplomatic channels ... but it's not going to affect our bilateral relations with those two countries."

As for facts in the West Bank, they are no secret.

Between 200,000 and 320,000 Palestinians used to live in the Jordan Valley before Israel occupied it in 1967. But now there are fewer than 60,000. Some 1,200 Jews lived in the region before the war. But 310,000 live there today.

Update: This article was altered on 29 March to add the quote 'We have no intention of co-operating with this mission' from Yoel Mester

Opinion

How to save the two-state solution

The EU should deligitimise Israel's occupation of the West Bank and legitimise its existence within 1967 borders to save the two-state solution.

News in Brief

  1. EU warns Turkey as 'Gezi Park' trials begin
  2. EU universities to share students, curricula
  3. Migrant rescue ship loses Human Rights Court appeal
  4. Denmark completes social democrat sweep of Nordics
  5. Johnson offers 'do or die' pledge on Brexit
  6. Weber indirectly attacks Macron in newspaper op-ed
  7. EU to sign free trade deal with Vietnam
  8. EU funding of air traffic control 'largely unnecessary'

Analysis

EU should stop an insane US-Iran war

"If Iran wants to fight, that will be the official end of Iran. Never threaten the United States again!", US president Donald Trump tweeted on Monday (20 May).

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. International Partnership for Human RightsEU-Uzbekistan Human Rights Dialogue: EU to raise key fundamental rights issues
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNo evidence that social media are harmful to young people
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersCanada to host the joint Nordic cultural initiative 2021
  4. Vote for the EU Sutainable Energy AwardsCast your vote for your favourite EUSEW Award finalist. You choose the winner of 2019 Citizen’s Award.
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersEducation gets refugees into work
  6. Counter BalanceSign the petition to help reform the EU’s Bank
  7. UNICEFChild rights organisations encourage candidates for EU elections to become Child Rights Champions
  8. UNESDAUNESDA Outlines 2019-2024 Aspirations: Sustainability, Responsibility, Competitiveness
  9. Counter BalanceRecord citizens’ input to EU bank’s consultation calls on EIB to abandon fossil fuels
  10. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual EU-Turkmenistan Human Rights Dialogue takes place in Ashgabat
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate

Latest News

  1. EU moves to end car-testing 'confidentiality clause'
  2. EU parliament gives extra time for leaders on top jobs
  3. Europe's rights watchdog lifts Russia sanctions
  4. EU-Vietnam trade deal a bad day for workers' rights
  5. EU 'special envoy' going to US plan for Palestine
  6. Polish judicial reforms broke EU law, court says
  7. EU study: no evidence of 'East vs West' food discrimination
  8. Russia tried to stir up Irish troubles, US think tank says

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us