JERUSALEM (AFP) - Israel on Thursday slammed as "biased" a report by the UN Human Rights Council calling on the Jewish state to halt all settlement activity, saying it would only hamper peace efforts.
"The Human Rights Council has sadly distinguished itself by its systematically one-sided and biased approach towards Israel. This latest report is yet another unfortunate reminder of that," foreign ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor said.
The report, which was written by three independent experts, calls on Israel to immediately stop building on occupied Palestinian land and to start pulling out its Jewish settlers, who number more than 500,000.
"Israel must... cease all settlement activities without preconditions (and) must immediately initiate a process of withdrawal of all settlers," they wrote, saying the settlements were causing Palestinian human rights to be "violated consistently and on a daily basis".
But the Israeli foreign ministry said the report would hurt peace efforts.
"Counterproductive measures, such as the report before us, will only hamper efforts to find a sustainable solution to the Israel-Palestinian conflict," Palmor said in a statement.
"The only way to resolve all pending issues between Israel and the Palestinians, including the settlements issue, is through direct negotiations without pre-conditions." Israel cut all ties with the 47-member state council in March 2012 after the body announced it would probe how Israeli settlements may be infringing on the rights of the Palestinians.
The experts, who will present their findings to the council on Mar 18, were not able to visit Israel or the Palestinian territories, after failing to secure Israeli permission, and instead met in Jordan with more than 50 people affected by the settlements or working in NGOs in a relevant field, it said.
The report was published two days after Israel became the first country ever to boycott a UN Human Rights Council review, in a move linked to the settlement report.
The Jewish state is not a member of the council but like all 193 UN countries it is required to undergo Universal Periodic Reviews of its human rights situation.