Diplomacy & defense

The Israeli PM responded to letter from 11 US lawmakers calling for probe into Israeli 'violations'

Washington on Wednesday condemned a United Nations Human Rights Council resolution calling to establish a database of businesses operating in the West Bank.

"We continue to unequivocally oppose the very existence of that agenda item and therefore any resolutions ... that come from it," State Department spokesman John Kirby said, adding the body was guilty of "bias against Israel."

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday responded fiercely to a letter sent by eleven US lawmakers – long-serving Democratic Senator Patrick Leahy and ten House representatives – to Secretary of State John Kerry urging him to investigate alleged Israeli and Egyptian violations of human rights.

"The IDF and the Israel Police do not engage in executions," Netanyahu said. "Israel's soldiers and police officers defend themselves against bloodthirsty terrorists who come to murder them."

"Where is the concern for the human rights of the many Israelis who've been murdered and maimed by these savage terrorists?" Netanyahu continued.

Yesh Atid chairman Yair Lapid also responded, sending a letter to Senate Minority Leader Harry Read in which he called the letter's claims "outlandish" and accused the letter's authors of being "willing to put the lives of every Israeli at risk by weakening our armed forces as the threat from terrorists on our northern and southern borders increases."

Politico on Tuesday reported that they had obtained a letter dated February 17 in which the legislators raised claims of human rights abuses, including accusations of extrajudicial killings by both Israel and Egypt. They also mentioned reports of torture in Israel.

A law that prohibits the US from providing military aid to foreign military units that violate human rights, originally introduced by Leahy nearly two decades ago, was cited in the letter.

“In light of these reports we request that you act promptly to determine their credibility and whether they trigger the Leahy Law and, if so, take appropriate action called for under the law,” read the letter obtained by Politico.

The Leahy Law applies to funding for specific units, not necessarily to entire armies.

The letter also suggested that US military assistance is compromising efforts to monitor possible human rights abuses.

“According to information we have received, the manner in which US military assistance has been provided to Israel and Egypt, since the Camp David Accords, including the delivery of assistance at the military service level, has created a unique situation that has hindered implementation of normal mechanisms for monitoring the use of such assistance,” the letter stated..

Politico suggested that the "real impact" of the letter "may be political: Israel’s unusual, if not unprecedented inclusion with Egypt on such an inquiry is likely to rile Israel’s allies in Washington, who bristle at the notion that the Middle East’s only established democracy could be lumped in with a notorious human rights abuser like Egypt."

While the letter was evidently sent over a month ago, its existence was revealed amid a debate in Israel over an incident in which a soldier allegedly shot dead a wounded and subdued Palestinian attacker, who human rights NGO B'Tselem said no longer posed any threat.

The incident was captured on video, leading to the arrest of the soldier and condemnations by senior officials – and also sparking a national debate, with some on the Right arguing that the soldier was being unfairly demonized. Many also had criticism for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot for supposedly refusing to support the soldier. Hundreds protested in support of the soldier on Tuesday


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