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Israel bars U.N. team from probing settlements
JERUSALEM — Israel cut working relations with the U.N. Human Rights Council on Monday and will bar a U.N. team from entering Israel or the West Bank for a planned investigation of Jewish settlements, the Foreign Ministry said.
Israel accuses the council of having a pronounced anti-Israel bias because of what it says is its disproportionate focus on Israeli policy toward the Palestinians.
Israeli leaders have been in an uproar over the council's adoption of a resolution last week condemning Jewish settlement construction in the West Bank and East Jerusalem and its decision to send a fact-finding mission to investigate such activity.
On Monday, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman announced Israel is severing working ties with the council.
"It means that we're not going to work with them. We're not going to let them carry out any kind of mission for the Human Rights Council, including this probe," said Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor.
The Palestinians are preparing settlement maps and photos to present to the council, said senior Palestinian official Nabil Shaath. He said Israel will not be able to stop the investigation by cutting ties with the council.
"We will go to any international body that can investigate and impose sanctions," he said.
Much of the international community sees settlement construction on occupied lands the Palestinians seek for a future state as a major impediment to peacemaking, and has pressured Israel to freeze it.
Israel has moved 500,000 Israelis to the West Bank and East Jerusalem since capturing the areas, along with Gaza, in the 1967 Mideast war. Israel withdrew soldiers and settlers from Gaza in 2005, though it still controls access by air, sea and land.
The Palestinians say continued settlement expansion pre-empts the outcome of negotiations. Israel, which refuses to halt construction, says the fate of settlements and the related issue of the final borders of a Jewish and a Palestinian state must be determined through negotiations, not demands.
Since its creation in 2006, the Geneva-based council has focused heavily on alleged abuses by Israel. After the United States joined in 2009, the council increasingly has addressed human rights problems in other countries. Last year, it created a special investigator for Iran, held emergency meetings on Libya and Syria, and dispatched teams of experts to probe abuses in those countries.
The council likely will keep passing resolutions on Israel while the occupation of Palestinian land continues, its president, Uruguayan diplomat Laura Dupuy Lasserre, said last week.
Israel has had uneasy relations with the U.N. for decades, in large part because of the pro-Palestinian majority in the General Assembly, though the United States has used its veto power multiple times to block anti-Israel resolutions in the Security Council.
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