U.S. condemns U.N. call for list of firms operating in West Bank

A Palestinian protester holds up an unspent tear gas grenade fired by Israeli troops as he stands in front of the troops during clashes, near Israel's Ofer Prison, near the West Bank city of Ramallah, March 25, 2016. REUTERS/Mohamad Torokman (Reuters)

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States on Wednesday condemned a United Nations Human Rights Council resolution that calls for setting up a database of businesses operating in the occupied West Bank, a move that Israel has called a "blacklist." The Geneva-based council, established 10 years ago and long accused by the United States and Israel of bias against the Jewish state, adopted the motion last week with 32 votes in favor, none against and 15, mostly European nations, abstaining. The move came less than six months after the European Union published new guidelines for labeling products made in Israeli settlements, a move Israeli officials view as discriminatory and fear could lead to an effective boycott. The resolution, which calls for the database of enterprises to be updated annually, was passed under the Human Rights Council's agenda item seven, which covers the "human rights situation in Palestine and other occupied Arab territories." U.S. State Department spokesman John Kirby criticized the motion at his daily briefing. "We continue to unequivocally oppose the very existence of that agenda item and therefore any resolutions ... that come from it," he said, accusing the body of "bias against Israel." While repeating the U.S. view that Israeli settlement building on occupied land erodes the chances of peace with the Palestinians, Kirby said the creation of a database would be an unprecedented step by the council and exceeded its authority. The United States is not currently a voting member of the council, which is made up of 47 member states which are elected to three-year terms by the U.N. General Assembly and which may not serve more than two consecutive terms. Israel captured the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem in the 1967 Middle East war and later annexed East Jerusalem, declaring it part of its eternal, indivisible capital, in a move that was never recognized internationally. (Reporting by Arshad Mohammed; Editing by Jonathan Oatis)