Great piece by Bill Van Esveld, a Middle East researcher at Human Rights Watch based in Jerusalem, published in The Hill:
Twenty years ago, Israeli and Palestinian leaders signed the Oslo accords on the White House lawn, opening the “peace process” that the US is trying to reinvigorate. Yet the Obama administration has failed to learn the lesson of the past two decades: keeping human rights violations off the peace talks agenda is a losing strategy. In this respect, Secretary of State John Kerry’s recent shuttle diplomacy has actually reached new lows.
Kerry, according to news reports and other sources, met with European leaders in Vilnius on September 7 and urged them to postpone new rules that would ensure Israel could not use European Union funds to support West Bank settlements.
But European sources say the rules are required by the EU’s own law, which incorporate its obligations under international law not to “recognize” illegal actions by other countries. Allowing EU aid to be used to benefit Israel’s settlements could breach that law. Kerry contended that Europe’s attempt to prevent itself from violating international law could complicate the peace process.
This isn’t the first time. The U.S., in the name of promoting negotiations, has consistently applied pressure to block accountability for rights violations, from vetoing Security Council resolutions critical of Israeli violations to calling on Palestine not to join the International Criminal Court – even at times when the peace process has been practically moribund.
Israel’s official position is that the primary responsibility for Palestinians’ human rights in occupied territories lies with the Palestinian Authority. Yet Israel allows Palestinian Authority security services to operate in less than 20 percent of the West Bank.
In the areas of the West Bank where Israel has exclusive control of security, its justice systems finds 99.74 percent of Palestinian defendants guilty of “security offenses,” but closes more than 90 percent of Palestinian complaints of settler violence without even filing an indictment. Only six Israeli soldiers have been convicted of unlawfully killing Palestinians since 2000, and none served more than seven months in jail.
The U.S. has also failed to address abuses, including credible allegations of torture, by the Palestinian Authority. U.S. diplomats in Jerusalem told me that the U.S. would oppose Palestinian efforts to sign human rights treaties. This has been an option since the majority of UN member states recognized Palestinian statehood in 2012 and would make it easier to hold the Palestinian Authority to account for abuses. But the U.S. diplomats I spoke to said such a move would be “unhelpful to final status negotiations.”