Israel has severed all contact with the UN Human Rights Council after accusing the body of bias for ordering an investigation into Jewish settlement construction in the West Bank. Mr Netanyahu’s cabinet is also considering imposing stiff financial penalties on the Palestinian Authority after accusing its president, Mahmoud Abbas, of being behind the council’s latest decision.
Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, said the council “should be ashamed of itself” after its member states voted by 36 to one to appoint a mission to assess the impact of settlements on the Palestinian population. Only the United States voted against the resolution.
Although Israel is not a member of the council, officials in Jerusalem said that the country’s ambassador to the body had been instructed not to answer the telephone if any of its officials rang. He has also been told not to attend any of its meetings.
Underlining the scale of its anger, Mr Netanyahu’s government pledged not to cooperate with the mission and said its members would be denied permission to enter Israel or the West Bank.
The UN council has faced a torrent of criticism in recent weeks, with Russia and the Syrian government also accusing it of bias for resolutions condemning the Assad regime of human rights abuses in Syria.
Israel’s criticisms go further, with officials in Mr Netanyahu’s government saying that it has passed more than 30 resolutions aimed at the Jewish state in recent years.
Avigdor Lieberman, the Israeli foreign minister, drew a comparison between the move and the killing of Jewish school children in Toulouse last week by a gunman who said he was motivated by the plight of the Palestinians.
“We are dealing with al-Qaeda terror on the one hand and diplomatic terror by Abu Mazen on the other,” he said, referring to Mr Abbas by his alternative name.
For Israel, the issue of settlements is a particularly sensitive one after it was accused of reneging on pledges it made during peace talks to freeze Jewish construction on territory occupied by the Israeli army in the Six Day War of 1967.
The Palestinian Authority says the expansion of the settlements, considered illegal under international law, undermines the prospect of there ever being a viable Palestinian state.
Israel yesterday confirmed that Mohammed Merah, the gunman behind the killings in Toulouse, had spent three days in the country in 2010 but said it could not confirm French claims that he had been detained at the time for carrying a knife.