Israeli officials have vowed to bar a United Nations team from coming to Israel or the West Bank to investigate Jewish settlements, infuriated by its condemnation of the settlements last week.
“We're not going to let them carry out any kind of mission for the Human Rights Council, including this probe,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor told the Associated Press.
The Israeli ambassador to Geneva has been ordered to immediately cut off contact with the U.N. Human Rights Council and ignore phone calls from its commissioner, Haaretz reported, citing a senior Israeli official.
Israel has been pressured to freeze settlements in the West Bank, land that the Palestinians seek for a future state. The Human Rights Council, the top human rights body at the U.N., called on Israel to desist from building settlements and voted to launch an investigation into how they affected Palestinian rights.
A few days earlier, a separate U.N. report found Palestinians had lost access to water in a portion of the West Bank as Israeli settlers took over springs, using threats and intimidation. Israeli officials argue that the U.N. council is biased against them, saying it focuses too much on Israel and not on abuses elsewhere.
Some Israeli lawmakers criticized the move. Knesset member Dov Khenin told Haaretz that the government was isolating itself, showing it "prefers settlements over human rights."
There are now 500,000 Israeli settlers in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, according to the Associated Press. Settlers were withdrawn from Gaza seven years ago.
-- Emily Alpert in Los Angeles
Photo: Palestinian workers labor at the construction site of the Jewish settlement of Shilo in the West Bank in February. Credit: Abir Sultan / European Pressphoto Agency