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

A bill calling for an end to the U.N. investigation into Israel has been reintroduced to the U.S. Congress after similar legislation failed to make progress last year.

The United States has repeatedly opposed the controversial commission of inquiry into Israel, but has continued to fund the investigation as part of its U.N. budget, despite objections from Israel and some U.S. lawmakers.

The COI Elimination Act seeks to make it official U.S. policy to “seek to eliminate” commissions of inquiry and “combat systemic anti-Israel bias in the UN Human Rights Council and other international forums,” and cut U.S. funding for the commissions.

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

The UN Human Rights Council’s commission of inquiry into Israel has been overwhelmingly critical of the Jewish state, with a report that almost completely ignores terrorism and violence in Palestine and blames Israel for the conflict. One of its three members made anti-Semitic remarks last year but remained in his post without any U.N. influence.

Steube introduced an identical bill to the House last year with 119 bipartisan co-sponsors.florida state legislator is seriously injured Unable to comment on the new legislation last fall.

Another COI elimination bill introduced in the Senate last year has bipartisan support from 13 senators.

Both bills died amid opposition from some Democrats.

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 an effort to keep Israel a wedge issue,” she said, while acknowledging U.S. efforts to object to the Human Rights Council’s “unfair and disproportionate focus on Israel.”

Lee said the U.S. made a “one-off” payment and could not allocate funds to the U.N. because that would weaken U.S. influence in the world body.

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However, the US has previously limited funding to UN programs related to the Palestine Liberation Organization.

Lawmakers also last year rejected a withholding provision in a draft 2023 appropriations bill that would have denied U.S. funding to the investigative committee.

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

The U.S. State Department and U.N. missions have publicly opposed the commission’s access to Israel, even though the U.S. is funding the investigation and funding the commission’s recommended World Court case against Israel as part of the U.S. budget submission to the U.N.

The U.S. delegation opposed the commission’s creation in 2021, saying it was disproportionate.

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

Twenty-two countries led by the United States signed an open letter last year at the U.N. Human Rights Council, calling the investigation evidence of “prolonged and disproportionate scrutiny” of Israel.

Earlier this month, however, the US mission to the UN touted its success in negotiating the UN Fifth Committee budget, including “full funding of the Human Rights Council’s mandate”. The United States is the largest contributor to the UN’s $3.4 billion program budget, accounting for 22 percent of the total.

“The United States, its allies and partners concluded 2022 with a string of successes during the Fifth Committee of the UN General Assembly,” the statement said. The delegation did not respond to a request for comment on the funding decision.

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 Human Rights Council’s budget, without a vote.

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

In addition to the Commission of Inquiry, there is an open-ended Human Rights Council Special Rapporteur on Israel. The current mandate leader, Francesca Albanese, has a history of anti-Semitism and is overwhelmingly critical of Israel. The U.S. mission to the United Nations said it was “appalled by her actions,” and some members of Congress called for her removal. Nor has Albanese received any repercussions from the UN for her anti-Semitism.

UN Commissioners Chris Sidoti (left), Navi Pillay (centre) and Myron Kothari (right) discuss their investigations into Israel and the Palestinians at the United Nations in New York on October 27, 2022. (Luke Tres/The Times of Israel)

Israel has been subject to two open-ended investigations and is the only country to be scrutinized by such investigations by the United Nations.

In a report last year, the commission of inquiry recommended that the General Assembly request an advisory opinion from the International Court of Justice on Israel, prompting the plenary to make a formal request months later. Israel has sharply criticized the report for failing to mention recent terror and security threats against the Jewish state.

The Palestinian plea asks the court to weigh Israel’s “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 highest United Nations court to mediate disputes between states. It last ruled Israel in 2004.

When the Fourth Committee of the UN General Assembly first proposed a resolution seeking the court’s opinion last November, the United States voted against it.

The proposal was approved and then submitted to the Fifth Committee for approval of its $247,800 budget.

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At a budget hearing on Dec. 30, Israel proposed a vote to withdraw funding from the court’s investigation, saying it was “part of a broad UN campaign of systemic discrimination against Israel.” Israel’s representative asked member states to also vote against the funding.

That vote failed — 105 in favor of the budget, 13 against, with 37 abstentions. The United States abstained, a rare occasion where the United States does not side with Israel at the United Nations.

Caption: Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas speaks during the 77th session of the United Nations General Assembly at United Nations Headquarters in New York, September 23, 2022. (Spencer Platt/Getty Images/AFP)

The Palestinian representative thanked countries that backed the budget, saying “this attempt has failed utterly”.

“For many countries, this vote also reflects their principled support for Palestine and its people. We thank all of you for your unequivocal support for the ICJ’s ability to fulfill its mandate,” he said.

Then came the entire UN program budget of $3.4 billion for 2023, and Israel officially disengaged from the decision to fund the World Court and other anti-Israel decisions.

After the budget is approved, the resolution is submitted to the plenary session of the General Assembly. The World Court’s request was granted by a vote of 87 in favor to 26 against with 53 abstentions, with the United States voting against it.

Anne Bayefsky, a human rights lawyer and professor who oversees the U.N., said U.S. U.N. budget policies “put the U.S. taxpayer in the lurch of openly funding U.N.-driven anti-Semitism.”

“The Biden administration claims to fight anti-Semitism and is fundamentally opposed to UN investigations, their creation and funding. So now is the time to put your money where your mouth is,” Touro University Institute for Human Rights and the Holocaust Institute Director Baevsky said.

The World Court said earlier this month that it had formally received a request from the UN General Assembly to rule against Israel.

Israel argues that the investigations are part of a larger discriminatory pattern at the United Nations. The General Assembly last year condemned Israel more than all other countries combined.

Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations, Gilad Erdan, said last week on Holocaust remembrance day that “it is regrettable that the United Nations has neglected its purpose” in combating anti-Semitism, underscoring the Human Rights Council’s Israeli concern and anti-Semitic rhetoric by UN staff and investigators.


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