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Israel races to prevent publication of UN settlement 'blacklist'

Dozens of major Israeli companies, as well as multinationals that do business in Israel, are expected to appear on the list.

AP  |  Jerusalem 

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Weeks ahead of the expected completion of a UN of companies that operate in Israel's West settlements, and the Trump Administration are working feverishly to prevent its publication.

While is usually quick to brush off UN criticism, officials say they are taking the so-called "blacklist" seriously, fearing its publication could have devastating consequences by driving companies away, deterring from coming and prompting investors to dump of Israeli firms.

Dozens of major Israeli companies, as well as multinationals that do business in Israel, are expected to appear on the list.

"We will do everything we can to ensure that this list does not see the light of day," Israel's UN ambassador, Danny Danon, told The Associated Press.

The UN's top human rights body, the Human Rights Council, ordered the compilation of the in March 2016, calling on UN rights chief Zeid Ra'ad al-Hussein to "investigate the implications of the Israeli settlements on Palestinians."

The community overwhelmingly considers the settlements, built on occupied land claimed by the Palestinians for a future state, to be illegal.

rejects such claims, citing the land's strategic and religious significance, and says the matter should be resolved in negotiations.

Israeli officials say that about 100 local companies that operate in the West and east Jerusalem have received warning letters that they will be on the list. In addition, some 50 companies, mostly American and European, also have been warned.

The companies have not been publicly identified, but one official said they include Israeli banks, supermarkets, restaurant chains, bus lines and security firms, as well as giants that provide equipment or services used to build or maintain settlements.

He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the matter with the media.

The only company to confirm receiving a warning letter has been Bezeq, Israel's national telephone company. Bezeq's chief executive, Stella Handler, posted a copy of the letter sent by Zeid's office in September on her Facebook page.

It accused Bezeq of using West land for infrastructure, providing phone and Internet services to settlements and operating sales offices in the West and east Jerusalem.

Handler angrily wrote that Bezeq provides service to all customers, regardless of race or where they live.

"The council's bias against is so extreme that it has lost all relevance in the world," she wrote. "We will not cooperate with a move that is all in all anti-Israeli propaganda."

But hours later, Handler removed the post, saying she had done so at the request of the government. The Israeli official confirmed the government has asked companies not to speak about the issue. Bezeq declined comment.

has long accused the United Nations, and particularly the rights council, of being biased against it. is the only country that faces an examination of its rights record at each of the council's three sessions each year.

Some 70 resolutions, or about quarter of the council's country-specific resolutions, have been aimed at That is nearly triple the number for the second-place country: Syria, where hundreds of thousands have been killed in a devastating six-year civil war.

First Published: Sun, November 26 2017. 13:15 IST