The UK has long been clear that the Council’s disproportionate focus on Israel threatens the Council’s credibility.
Israel remains the only country with a dedicated standalone place on the HRC agenda – Item 7. Item 7 represents systematic institutional bias, and as such weakens the voice of the Council, and hardens positions. The Secretary General at the time, Ban Ki Moon, raised his own concerns that Item 7 was disproportionate when it was first introduced.
It was for these reasons that in 2017 the UK announced its decision that unless things changed the UK would move to vote against all resolutions under item 7. Last year we voted against the accountability resolution as part of the progressive implementation of that commitment.
Yesterday, the move of the accountability resolution to Item 2 allowed us to engage meaningfully with the text, and move back to a position of abstention. For the remaining resolutions under item 7, we will now vote against all of them. These four No votes represent a vote against item 7.
Our vote against Item 7 should not be misconstrued as a vote against Palestinian self-determination. We remain committed to supporting the creation of a sovereign, independent, contiguous, and viable Palestinian state - living in peace and security, side by side with Israel. We remain fully committed to a two state solution.
Nor should our vote against Item 7 be misconstrued in any way as a vote against appropriate and proportionate scrutiny of human rights abuses or illegal settlement activity in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. We frequently express our concerns about the illegal expansion of Israeli settlements and the annexation of settlement outposts deep in the West Bank. We condemn the planned demolition of the Palestinian village of Khan al-Ahmar. We continue to press Israel to abandon its demolition plans entirely. The Foreign Office’s annual Human Rights report sets out the human rights violations of the Israeli Government, the Palestinian Authority, and the terrorist group Hamas.
Our votes today are a vote against the persistence of unacceptable and systematic bias and the unfair and implicit supposition that Israel’s conduct deserves greater scrutiny than any other country.
Far from serving any constructive purpose, the UK believes that this dedicated agenda item obstructs efforts for peace in the Middle East.
Our votes today do not mean that we will hold back from voicing or raising concern about Israel’s actions when warranted. The UN and its member states have every right to address these grave matters in a measured, balanced and proportionate way. In future, Britain will continue to support scrutiny of Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories in the Human Rights Council, so long as this scrutiny is justified, proportionate, and is not proposed under Item 7.