JERUSALEM: Israel called on Tuesday (Wednesday in Manila) for the shelving of a United Nations inquiry into its war last summer in the Gaza Strip after the probe’s head quit over Israeli accusations of conflict of interest.
Canadian international law expert William Schabas resigned on Monday (Tuesday in Manila) after Israel complained that he had prepared a legal opinion for the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) in October 2012, the United Nations said.
Schabas strongly denied that he was beholden to the PLO but said he was reluctantly stepping down to avoid the inquiry into the July-August conflict — commissioned by the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) — being compromised in any away.
“Under the circumstances and with great regret, I believe the important work of the commission is best served if I resign with immediate effect,” he wrote in his letter of resignation.
Council president Joachim Ruecker accepted the resignation, with spokesman Rolando Gomez saying that “in this way even an appearance of conflict of interest is avoided, thus preserving the integrity of the process.”
The UNHRC later on Tuesday appointed Mary McGowan Davis, already a member of the inquiry, to succeed Schabas.
But Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu seized on Schabas’s departure to demand whole investigation be abandoned, charging that the rights council was an “anti-Israel body.”
“After the resignation of the committee chairman who was biased against Israel, the report that was written at the behest of the UN Human Rights Council — an anti-Israel body, the decisions of which prove it has nothing to do with human rights — needs to be shelved,” Netanyahu said.
“This is the same council that in 2014 made more decisions against Israel than against Iran, Syria and North Korea combined,” he added.
Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said Schabas’s resignation would make little difference to the inquiry’s outcome.
“It won’t change the committee’s report’s conclusions, which were biased in advance in accordance with the body that formed the committee, whose sole purpose is attacking and harming Israel,” he said.
The Palestinians said Netanyahu’s calls were an attempt to intimidate UN investigators and cloud the issue.
“This [resignation]is a minor issue. Israel makes a habit of using whatever means they can to attack, defame, discredit and intimidate,” senior PLO official Hanan Ashrawi told Agence France-Presse.
“It’s a tactic to avoid accountability and treat Israel as a country that is above the law,” she said.