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Thursday, December 11, 2014

Israel Blasts Switzerland for Calling Geneva Convention Meeting

Israel blasted Switzerland on Thursday for calling a special meeting of the High Contracting Parties of the Fourth Geneva Convention next week, which is expected to severely censure Israel for its actions in the West Bank and Gaza.

Switzerland, the Depository of the Fourth Geneva Convention, summoned the meeting following a request put forward by the Palestinian Authority after it joined the convention in April, following the breakdown of the US-backed Israeli-Palestinian negotiations.

The meeting is scheduled for December 17.

UN Human Rights Council meeting in Geneva
The Fourth Geneva Convention on the Rules of War was adopted in 1949 in a response to Nazi atrocities. It governs actions during war and the treatment of civilians in occupied territories. In addition, it also outlaws the resettlement by an occupying power of its own civilians on territory under its military control.

Since it was adopted, it has met only twice, in 1999 and 2001, both times to deal with Israel.

Israel's Foreign Ministry spokesman Emmanuel Nachshon said that Switzerland, as the depository, is obligated to act in a “neutral and apolitical manner.

“Switzerland’s decision to convene the convention raises great doubts about its obligation to these principles, while it is giving its hand to the politicization of the Geneva Convention and the laws of war in general,” he said.

Nachshon said convening the meeting is a political step whose sole goal is to use the Fourth Geneva Convention as a platform to blast Israel.

Not only will Israel not participate, he said, but it is rethinking its position on other Swiss initiatives regarding international humanitarian law. Israel, he said, is calling on all countries for whom the Fourth Geneva Convention is important to boycott the meeting.

The US and Australia joined Israel in boycotting the 2001 meeting and are expected to do the same this time as well. Canada is also expected to boycott the meeting.

The decision to convene the meeting was only one piece of bad news Jerusalem received Thursday, the other being the decision by the French Senate to follow the lead of the French parliament’s lower house and recommend the government recognize “Palestine.”

The resolution passed by the slim margin of 153-146.

What set this vote off from other measures that have already passed through the parliaments in Spain, Britain and Ireland, however, is that the French resolution was proposed by the governing party, and not by opposition parties using the measure as a “club” against the governing party.

On the other hand, the first country that may not pass such a resolution is Denmark, which held a debate on the motion on Thursday.

Danish Ambassador Jesper Vahr predicted during a panel discussion at the annual Jerusalem Post Diplomatic Conference that “the vast majority of the Danish parliament will reject the proposal to recognize the state of Palestine.”

He explained that this would not be because Denmark does not believe in a two-state solution, but, rather, that to do so at this time would not be “fruitful.” He also indicated that he thinks recognition should be done by the EU in unison, rather than by each country unilaterally.

Vahr started a firestorm at the conference when he stated that Israel should be held to a higher standard than the Arab countries. "Because you are one of us" he added. "You wouldn't want to be judged by the same standards as the middle east. You should be judged by European standards."

Caroline B. Glick, the Jerusalem Post’s senior contributing editor, responded angrily. She accused Europe of having "an obsession that Jews have seen from Europeans from the time of Jesus.” 

In 2001, the United Nations Security Council approved a binding resolution that bars UN member states from funding or supporting terrorist organizations, Glick said.

That resolution, she said, has not stopped Europe from “funneling billions of euros into rebuilding terrorist-controlled Gaza.

“This is in contravention of binding international law that you signed onto,” she charged.

"But when it comes to Israel, Europe simply invents international law, Glick said. Europe acts as if it is required by law to sanction Israel for activity over the pre-1967 lines in West Bank settlements and Jerusalem, even though there is no such binding international legislation", she said.

“There is no such binding law. You guys are funding settlements in Western Sahara.

You are funding them directly,” she said. “This is not a double standard. This is a singular standard for Israel. This is not about international law. It is about an obsessive, compulsive need to constantly pick at the Jewish state,” she said.

Aviv Shir-On, the Foreign Ministry’s deputy director- general for Western Europe, said a Danish refusal to pass such a resolution would be “significant.”

Shir-On added, without referencing the Danish parliament, that he finds it odd that even as parliaments in Europe are taking the liberty to debate the recognition of a Palestinian state, “at the same time Europe criticizes the Israeli parliament debating a Jewish state. This is a bit strange and this is what we are trying to explain to our friends in Europe.”