United Nations report names 112 companies doing business with Israeli settlements

Blue and White chairman Benny Gantz speaks at a campaign event in Kfar Saba

Blue and White chairman Benny Gantz speaks at a campaign event in Kfar Saba

The UN Office of Human Rights earlier identified dozens of companies doing business with illegal Israeli settlements in Palestinian Authority's occupied West Bank.

The UNCHR's list was denounced as by Israeli leaders, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowing to "contest it with all of our strength" while President Reuven Rivlin said its publication brought to mind "dark periods in our history".

Israel and the United States regularly accuse the council of anti-Israel bias, and the Trump administration withdrew the United States in 2018 - faulting the UN for accepting autocratic governments that the administration said have repeatedly violated human rights.

The list is dominated by Israeli companies, including major banks, construction companies, supermarkets and gas stations.

Democratic Senator Ben Cardin and Republican Senator Rob Portman, who sit on the Finance Committee and Foreign Relations Committee, called it an "anti-Israel database, akin to a blacklist, of companies" that made major USA companies, including General Mills and Airbnb vulnerable to boycotts.

Pompeo asserted, "The United States has not provided, and will never provide, any information to the Office of the High Commissioner to support compilation of these lists and expresses support for US companies referenced".

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"The Human Rights Council should use its energy to encourage both Israel and the Palestinians to return to good faith negotiations", said Cardin. "However, after an extensive and meticulous review process we are satisfied this fact-based report reflects the serious consideration that has been given to this unprecedented and highly complex mandate", Michelle Bachelet said in a statement.

A Middle East peace plan announced last month by U.S. President Donald Trump proposed allowing Israel to keep control of the West Bank settlements though the plan would also create a Palestinian state.

Chief negotiator Saeb Erekat called the long-delayed report a "crucial first step to restore hope in multilateralism and worldwide law".

Israeli settlements established in occupied Palestinian territory are considered to violate global law, and have always been seen as a major obstacle to peace, since they are built on land the Palestinians see as part of their future state. It comes months after the US announced that it no longer considers West Bank settlements to be illegal and weeks after President Donald Trump unveiled his peace plan which allows for Israeli sovereignty over those communities.

Israel captured the West Bank in a 1967 war.

The Palestinians have rejected Trump's plan, and other countries have expressed little support for it while remaining opposed to the settlements. Under American pressure, he later put his annexation plan on hold until after March 2 elections.

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Her office said the report "does not provide a legal characterization of the activities in question, or of business enterprises' involvement in them".

The rights council had never before requested such a list scrutinizing corporate activities.

Human Rights Watch, a vocal critic of the settlements, applauded the report.

The United States, which no longer considers settlements illegal, has withdrawn from the council, in part over its treatment of Israel.

The report recommended that the database be updated annually, and urged the Human Rights Council to appoint a group of independent experts to handle this task.

But in a statement, the BDS movement called for action against the companies.

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Keaten reported from Geneva.

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