The U.N. Human Rights Council on Thursday passed a resolution ordering a first probe into how Israeli settlements may be infringing on the rights of the Palestinians.
The resolution was adopted with 36 votes in favor and 10 abstentions. Only the United States voted against it.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, meanwhile, slammed the resolution as “hypocritical.”
“This council has an automatic majority hostile to Israel and is hypocritical,” Netanyahu was quoted as saying in a statement released by his office.
The Israeli premier added that the U.N. Human Rights Council “should be ashamed of itself.”
“Until today, the council has made 91 decisions, 39 of which dealt with Israel, three with Syria and one with Iran,” Netanyahu said.
“One only had to hear the Syrian representative speak today about human rights in order to understand how detached from reality the council is,” he added in the statement.
But the Palestinians welcomed the resolution as a “new victory.”
“The new international decision is a new victory for the Palestinian cause,” said Nabil Abu Rudeina, the spokesman of president Mahmoud Abbas.
“This position sends a message from the international community to Israel that settlements are illegal and must totally stop,” he told AFP.
Presenting the resolution, a Pakistani envoy criticized Israel for insisting on building more settlements in the occupied territories, saying that they are “in violation of international humanitarian and human rights laws.”
“This resolution seeks to respond to the humanitarian and human rights challenges this illegal Israeli practice has created in the occupied territories,” he said.
Beyond ordering an investigation into the implications of settlements, the resolution also calls on Israel to “take and implement serious measures” such as confiscating arms to prevent acts of violence by Israeli settlers.
Condemning Israel’s announcements of new settlement homes, it demanded a reversal of the policy.
But the United States spoke up against the move, saying it was “deeply troubled by this Council’s bias against Israel.”
“Steps like this do nothing to promote a just and lasting peace,” said a U.S. envoy, adding that they only serve to “push parties apart.”
Israel’s envoy also challenged the resolution, one of several against the country.
“Many of the speakers today and in many other occasions in this room repeatedly emphasize the ideals of non-partiality, non-selectivity, non-politicization,” said the envoy.
“Why are these principles no longer relevant when it comes to” resolutions concerning Israel?”
Israel’s foreign ministry said the resolution “is yet another surrealistic decision from the workshop of a council that is instrumentalized as a tool to push for one-sided politicized moves instead of promoting human rights.”
“While all over the Middle East, human rights are violated in an unprecedented scale, the HRC ridicules itself by dedicating its time and resources to establish a superfluous and extravagant body whose sole purpose is to satisfy the Palestinians’ whims.”
Israel’s move to expand settlements has been criticized by the international community, which deems the action illegal.
Nevertheless, in late February, an Israeli committee legalized an unauthorized settler outpost in the northern West Bank and approved a plan for 500 new homes there.
The move was condemned as “deplorable” by the U.N.’s Middle East envoy Robert Serry, who said it “moves us further away from the goal of a two-state solution.”
This week, U.N. rights chief Navi Pillay said the expansion of Israeli settlements is deeply linked to problems including violence in the Occupied Palestinian Territory.
More than 310,000 Israelis live in settlements in the occupied West Bank and the number is growing.
Another 200,000 live in a dozen settlement neighborhoods in east Jerusalem, which was captured by Israel in 1967 and annexed in a move never recognized by the international community.