The United Nations Human Rights Council approved a resolution calling for an arms embargo against Israel that had the support of many of the European countries but received a nod of disapproval from Bahrain, which was absent for Tuesday’s vote.
The measure, dubbed the accountability resolution, passed 32-6, with eight abstentions. It included some of the harshest language against Israel out of the four resolutions that the 47-member UNHRC is expected to approve, as the 46th session ends this week.
The six countries that opposed the resolution were Austria, Brazil, Bulgaria, Cameroon, Malawi and Togo.
In an unusual move, Bahrain, which typically approves texts bashing Israel at the United Nations, was absent for the vote. It is the first time that this has occurred.
In addition, the following eight countries abstained: Bahamas, the Czech Republic, India, Marshall Islands, Nepal, Philippines, Ukraine and the United Kingdom.
Among the 32 countries that approved the text were five European ones, including nations that typically abstain from such votes as a show of support for Israel. Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and Poland all voted in favor of the resolution.
Last year, support for this text dropped perilously low, as it passed 22-8, with 17 abstentions. No European countries supported the measure last year, seven of the abstained and three opposed it all together.
European countries have increasingly sided with Israel at the UNHRC over two central complaints: the number of repetitive texts and the mandate to debate allegations of Israeli human rights violation at every session under Agenda Item 7. No other country has such a standing mandate.
To garner support for the resolution, its proponents have in the past brought it for debate under Agenda Item 2, but approval was low. This year, it merged that resolution with a second text on general allegations against Israel on human rights, and support rose.
The text called for UN member states to “refrain from transferring arms [to Israel] when, in accordance with applicable national procedures and international obligations and standards, they assess that there is a clear risk that such arms might be used to commit or facilitate serious violations or abuses of international human rights law or serious violations of international humanitarian law.”
At the UNHRC in Geneva, Austria’s envoy Elisabeth Tichy-Fisslberger, thanked the Palestinian Authority for its flexibility in a short speech she delivered on the European Union’s behalf.
“We wish to thank the mission of Palestine for its engagement and efforts on this and other resolutions. We welcome the choice to present this merged text under Item 2, thus reducing the overall number of resolutions and taking into account our principled position on Item 7. We recognize the considerable efforts made by the Palestinian mission and look forward to continued engagement with them in a positive spirit,” she said.
British envoy Julian Braithwaite also thanked the PA, but said that it had still abstained, because it had not also included condemnations of Hamas.
PLO Ambassador Ibrahi Khraishi said that it was slammed diplomatically for attacking Israel, no matter how many steps it took to take into account criticism. If the Palestinians cannot call for accountability, no country should be able to call for accountability, he said.
“The issue of Palestine is an issue of foreign occupation for over 45 years. The idea of accountability, remedy and reparation should be a consensual matter for all countries,” he said.
Israel’s Ambassador to the UN in Geneva Meirav Shachar said that the relocation of the resolution did not address the issue of bias against Israel.
“This resolution may be presented under Item 2 but it still contains the same one-sided, distorted understanding of the situation on the ground like its Item 7 predecessors.
“When I look through this resolution, I am amazed that members of the Council could ever consider this a fair and balanced resolution. It does not reflect the reality on the ground, and if anything this resolution will contribute to the polarization of the conflict,” Shachar said.
The text makes no mention of Hamas and “only mentions terrorism and incitement when condemning Israel, and does not attribute any responsibility to Palestinian actors,” she said.
Nor does it mention the positive cooperation between Israel and the PA on combating the COVID-19 pandemic, she said.
The purpose of this text “is not to ensure accountability and justice, nor to objectively assess the human rights situation. The sole purpose of this resolution, by those who wrote it and those who support it, is to negate Israel.
“Any member state who votes in favor of this resolution, and backs its narrative, cannot be an honest broker when it comes to peace in the Middle East,” Shachar said.