Israel to Prevent UN Mission from Investigating West Bank Settlements
Israel has said that it will prevent a UN fact-finding mission from investigating the legality of Israeli settlements in the Palestinian territories.
The Israeli Foreign Ministry said that it will not cooperate with the mission, and will stop its members from entering Israel and the Palestinian Territories, Ma'an News Agency has reported.
The team of experts, set up by the UN Human Rights Council, is due to start work in August and present a preliminary report at the end of September, Ibrahim Khreisheh, Palestinian representative to the UNHCR, said on Sunday.
Kreisheh confirmed to the Voice of Palestine radio that the final report is due in March 2013, and called upon Israel to let the team move freely in the Palestinian territories.
The President of the UNHCR, Laura Dupuy Lasserre also urged the Israeli government "not to obstruct the process of the investigation and to cooperate fully with the mission".
However, given that the fact-finding team will not be allowed into Israel or the Palestinian territories, the report is likely to have to rely on second hand sources.
The decision to investigate Israeli settlements was taken after a vote in March by the 47-member UNHCR following an initiative brought to the council by the Palestinian Authority. The United States was the only country to vote against the motion.
At the time, the Israeli Foreign Ministry condemned the decision, stating, "The establishment of this mission is another blatant expression of the singling out of Israel in the UNHRC."
In July, the UN Special Rapporteur for human rights in the Palestinian Territories, Richard Falk, told a news conference that the increased building of settlements had "closed the book" on a two state solution.
Falk also laid blame at the door of the international community, which regards all Israeli settlements in the West Bank as illegal under international law. He stated, "The international community is conspiring, maybe unwittingly, in a process that has no way of bringing justice to the people involved in this conflict."
The UN team is being led by by French judge Christine Chanet, and also includes Pakistani lawyer Asma Jahangir and Unity Dow, a judge from Botswana.