Bill calling to end UN probe into Israel reintroduced to US Congress

A bill calling for an end to a United Nations investigation against Israel has been reintroduced in the US Congress after similar legislation failed to advance last year.

The US has repeatedly opposed the controversial Commission of Inquiry against Israel, but continues to fund the investigation as part of its UN budget, despite opposition from Israel and some members of the US Congress.

The “COI Elimination Act” seeks to make it official US policy to “seek the elimination” of the Commission of Inquiry and “to combat systematic anti-Israel bias in the United Nations Human Rights Council and other international fora,” and to cut off US funding for the commission.

Florida House Representative Greg Steube introduced the bill earlier this month. It was referred to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs and enlisted 17 co-sponsors, all Republicans.

The UN Human Rights Council’s Commission of Inquiry against Israel has been highly critical of the Jewish state and its reports almost entirely ignore Palestinian terrorism and violence and blame Israel for the conflict. One of its three members made antisemitic comments last year but remains in his post and faces no UN repercussions.

Steube introduced a similar bill in the House last year, garnering 119 co-sponsors from both sides of the aisle. The Florida Congressman is seriously injured in a fall last week and was not available to comment on the new law.

Another COI Elimination Act introduced in the Senate last year had bipartisan support from 13 senators.

Both bills died amid some opposition in the Democratic party.

US House Representative Barbara Lee, a California Democrat, told the House Appropriations Committee in June that the legislation would “politicize” Israel.

“This is not a constructive bipartisan proposal but rather an effort to make Israel an issue,” he said, while acknowledging US efforts to oppose the Human Rights Council’s “unfair and disproportionate focus on Israel. “

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Lee said the US is paying “in a lump sum” and cannot split UN funding because it would weaken US action at the world body.

The US has previously restricted funding for UN programs tied to the Palestine Liberation Organization, however.

Lawmakers last year also removed a withholding provision from the 2023 draft appropriations act that would have denied US funding to the Commission of Inquiry.

Caption: A general view of the room hosting a special session of the UN Human Rights Council on Ukraine, in Geneva, on May 12, 2022. (Fabrice Coffrini/AFP)

The US State Department and the UN mission publicly opposed the commission on Israel, although the US is contributing funding to the investigation, and the world court case against Israel was recommended by the commission, as part of the budget of the US at the UN.

The US mission opposed the creation of the commission in 2021, calling it disproportionate.

The State Department last year called the commission “a one-sided, biased approach that does nothing to advance the prospects for peace” and criticized it as “open-ended and vaguely defined.”

Twenty-two countries led by the US on the UN Human Rights Council signed an open letter last year that said the investigation was evidence of Israel’s “prolonged disproportionate investigation.”

Earlier this month, however, the US mission to the UN announced its success in UN Fifth Committee budget negotiations, including “full funding for Human Rights Council mandates.” The US is the largest contributor to the UN program budget of $3.4 billion, providing 22% of the total.

“The United States, along with its allies and partners, ended 2022 with several achievements at the UN General Assembly Fifth Committee session,” the statement said. The mission did not respond to a request for comment on the funding decisions.

The Commission of Inquiry was established in 2021 with $4,151,800 in funding for the first year. Its funding for 2023 is already included in the budget of the Human Rights Council and did not come up for a vote.

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The commission’s budget is relatively high – an investigation into human rights in Iran last year received $2,764,000, and lasts only one year, for example.

In addition to the Commission of Inquiry, there is also an open-ended Human Rights Council special rapporteur investigating Israel. The current mandate holder, Francesca Albanese, has a history of antisemitism and is highly critical of Israel. The US mission to the UN said it was “shocked by his behavior” and several members of Congress called for his removal. The Albanese also did not face any UN repercussions for his antisemitism.

UN commissioners Chris Sidoti, left, Navi Pillay, center, and Miloon Kothari, right, discuss their investigation into Israel and the Palestinians at the United Nations in New York, October 27, 2022. (Luke Tress/ Times of Israel)

Israel, which has two open investigations against it, is the only country under such a UN investigation.

The Commission of Inquiry, in a report last year, recommended that the General Assembly request an advisory opinion on Israel from the International Court of Justice, giving the plenary the power to make the formal request months later. That report was harshly criticized by Israel for omitting mention of recent terror and security threats against the Jewish state.

The request promoted by the Palestinians asks the court to weigh the Israeli “annexation,” the “legal status of the occupation” and Israeli measures “aimed at changing the demographic composition, character and status of the Holy City of Jerusalem.”

The International Court of Justice, also known as the world court, is the UN’s premier court for mediating disputes between nations. He last reigned in Israel in 2004.

The US voted against the resolution calling for the court’s opinion when it first appeared in the Fourth Committee of the General Assembly in November.

The measure passed, then went to the Fifth Committee to approve its budget of $247,800.

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At the December 30 budget hearing, Israel proposed a vote to withdraw funding from the court’s investigation, saying the investigation was “part of a broad campaign of systematic discrimination against Israel at the UN.” The Israeli representative asked member states to also vote against the funding.

That vote failed — 105 voted in favor of the budget, 13 against, and 37 abstained. The US abstained, in a rare instance that the US did not side with Israel at the UN.

Pictured: Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas addresses the 77th session of the United Nations General Assembly at UN headquarters in New York on September 23, 2022. (Spencer Platt/Getty Images/AFP)

The Palestinian representative thanked the countries that supported the budget, saying, “This attempt has completely failed.”

“For many countries, this vote is also a reflection of their principled support for Palestine and its people. We thank all of you for this unequivocal support for the International Court of Justice’s ability to carry out its duties,” he said.

The full $3.4 billion UN program budget for 2023 was initiated, and Israel formally withdrew from the decision to fund the international court and other rulings against Israel.

After the approval of the budget, the resolution went to the plenary of the General Assembly. The world court’s request was approved by a vote of 87 in favor, 26 against and 53 abstentions, with the US voting against.

Anne Bayefsky, a human rights lawyer and professor who monitors the UN, said that the US budget policy for the UN “leaves American taxpayers on the hook for openly funding antisemitism that has been fueled of the UN.”

“The Biden administration claims it wants to fight antisemitism and fundamentally opposes the UN inquiry, its creation and its funding. So it’s time to put its money where its mouth is,” said Bayefsky, the director of Touro University’s Institute on Human Rights and the Holocaust.

The world court told the world earlier this month that it had officially received the request to rule over Israel from the General Assembly.

Israel believes the investigations are part of a larger pattern of discrimination at the UN. The General Assembly condemned Israel more than all other countries combined last year.

Israel’s ambassador to the UN, Gilad Erdan, said last week on Holocaust Remembrance Day that “when it comes to combating antisemitism, the UN is sadly ignoring its purpose,” highlighting the Human Rights Council’s focus on Israel and antisemitic statement by UN staff and investigators. .


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