United States Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Thursday said the US government would not furnish any information for a database of companies operating in the occupied West Bank that the United Nations’ human rights office released, and said the compilation hurts efforts in the Middle East.
“The United States has long opposed the creation or release of this database,” he said in a statement. “Its publication only confirms the unrelenting anti-Israel bias so prevalent at the United Nations … Attempts to isolate Israel run counter to all of our efforts to build conditions conducive to Israeli-Palestinian negotiations that lead to a comprehensive and enduring peace.”
The UN Human Rights Council on Wednesday named 112 companies it said have business ties to Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank. The settlements are considered illegal under international law.
A spokesman for Michelle Bachelet, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, said the report was not a “blacklist” and was not intended to qualify any of the companies’ business activities as illegal.
But the release prompted a Palestinian threat of legal action against the firms, and raised concerns that the companies could be targets of boycotts or divestment to pressure Israel over its settlements.
Pompeo, along with two leading US senators, assailed the release for its potential of turning companies into boycott targets.
It is outrageous that the @UNHumanRights Commissioner @mbachelet would release the database of companies operating in Israeli-controlled territories. Its publication confirms the unrelenting anti-#Israel bias so prevalent at the @UN.
— Secretary Pompeo (@SecPompeo) February 13, 2020
Democratic Senator Ben Cardin and Republican Senator Rob Portman, who sit on the Senate Finance Committee and Senate Foreign Relations Committee in the US Congress, called it an “anti-Israel database, akin to a blacklist, of companies” that made major US companies, including General Mills and Airbnb, vulnerable to boycotts.
“The Human Rights Council should use its energy to encourage both Israel and the Palestinians to return to good faith negotiations,” said Cardin. “The United States cannot stand by while American businesses are being pressured by a foreign entity because of their work in Israel, one of our key allies.”
Palestinians hailed the report, with Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki calling it a “victory for international law”.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, meanwhile, said the UN rights council was a “biased and uninfluential body”.
The US has stood for many years as one of Israel’s strongest allies. Last month, President Donald Trump revealed a Middle East plan that envisions a disjointed Palestinian state that turns over key parts of the occupied West Bank to Israel and favours Israel on key contentious issues including borders, the status of Jerusalem and Jewish settlements.
The proposal was swiftly rejected by the Palestinians, who were not invited to provide input. Palestinians broke off ties with the Trump administration in late 2017 after it recognised Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and moved its embassy there.