Washington — A United Nations group’s decision to probe settlement activity on the West Bank has raised the specter of a new feud between Israel and the world body — and created a fresh headache for the White House.
Israel quickly denounced the Human Rights Council’s resolution, which calls for a fact-finding commission to investigate the “implications” of the settlements for Palestinians. The Jewish state also severed all ties with the council.
Jewish groups blasted the March 19 vote — in which the United States cast the only “no” vote — as anti-Israel grandstanding. They believe it will likely lead to a seriously flawed report along the lines of the much criticized U.N. report on the Israeli offensive in Gaza, which was written by Judge Richard Goldstone.
“The report is already written,” said Daniel Mariaschin, B’nai B’rith International’s executive vice president.
The Anti-Defamation League took a tougher stance, calling on the United States to quit the Human Rights Council altogether.
Even harsh critics of Israel’s settlements took a dim view of the planned fact-finding mission.
“The Israeli government’s refusal to cooperate with a body that has [disproportionately] and unfairly focused on Israel is understandable,” said Ori Nir, a spokesman for Americans for Peace Now, adding that the group wants to see an independent Israeli probe of the settlements.
Besides creating a nasty new stand-off between Israel and the U.N., the resolution could mushroom into a big diplomatic headache for the Obama administration, which has sought to rebuild its ties with the international body after years of discord.
The effort of the United States to work closer with the U.N. and its agencies has taken a hit each time the issue of Israel has come up, forcing the United States to choose between standing up for Israel or seeking to enhance its international image. Usually, supporting Israel has won out.
“The basic instinct of the administration was, ‘The more U.N., the merrier,’” said Shibley Telhami, the Anwar Sadat Professor for Peace and Development at the University of Maryland. “And then you get the Israel issue and it forces itself on the U.S.”
“The administration shifted its position largely… to defend the U.S. interests in Israel,” added Telhami, who is also a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution’s Saban Center for Middle East Policy.