The UK’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) been sharply criticized for the behavior of British diplomats in Geneva last week, who tried to pressure the Palestinians to water down a resolution on Israel’s illegal settlements.
On March 24, the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) adopted four resolutions pertaining to Palestinian rights and Israeli violations of international law. But it was the fourth and last resolution to be adopted, establishing “a database of all business enterprises involved” in settlement activities, which was the center of a small diplomatic storm.
According to various reports ahead of last Thursday’s session in Geneva, “intense diplomatic efforts” were being made by Israel and the U.S. to prevent the inclusion of the paragraph establishing the database, part of a broader resolution on Israel’s illegal settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and in the occupied Syrian Golan.
The UK also lobbied hard on Israel’s behalf, as an unnamed Palestinian official told The Guardian, including threats that a failure to remove the paragraph could affect both “aid to the Palestinian Authority and bilateral ties.”
When the paragraph remained, and the resolution was carried, the UK abstained, describing such a database of companies involved in settlement activities as “inappropriate”, and stating that the UK would not cooperate with the process.
In addition, when demands for the paragraph to be removed came to nothing, the UK decided as a “punitive” measure – in the words of a source in Geneva – to additionally abstain on the immediately preceding resolution concerning accountability and international law in the OPT.
Labour shadow human rights minister Andy Slaughter described the decision to abstain “on issues as basic as these” as “both depressing and hypocritical”, given that the government “has hitherto been clear and consistent on the illegality of settlements and the increasing damage their expansion has caused to any hopes of a resumption of negotiations.”
– Read more: Shadow Minister: UK Abstention on Israeli Settlements Resolution at UNHRC ‘Hypocritical’ – Ben White, MEMO