Israel has agreed to return to the UN Human Rights Council and to cede to Western pressure to participate on Tuesday in the periodic review of its human rights records that all 193 member states must undergo.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu made the decision to begin the reestablishment of ties with the council with less than 48 hours to go before Israel’s scheduled appearance for its Universal Periodic Review, according to Israeli sources.
Israel had initially failed to appear for its UPR in January and had been granted a number of extensions since then.
Tuesday’s prescheduled hearing was considered to be its last chance to participate in the process.
An Israeli delegation is leaving for Geneva to appear at the UNHRC for the review, the source said.
All UN member states, including those with poor human rights records such as Iran and Syria, have participated in the first round of UPRs.
Had Israel decided not to appear at the hearing, it would have become the first country to boycott the procedures.
Western countries were concerned that such a boycott by Israel could undermine the entire UPR process.
Since the UNHRC’s inception in 2006, Israel had persistently complained about the council’s biased actions against it, including a disproportionate number of censures leveled against it and special sessions held to attack its activities in the West Bank and Gaza.
Israel cut its ties with the UNHRC in March 2012, after the council created an investigatory mission to report on West Bank settlement activity.
Israel is the only country to which the council has assigned a permanent investigator.
In negotiations with the UN and Western countries about its return, Israel focused on two central points. The first was Agenda Item 7, which mandates that member states debate Israeli human rights violations in the Palestinian territories at each session.
The second point was a request to be included in the group of UN Western nations that meets in Geneva. While it is part of that group in New York, it has not been included in the Geneva group, making it the only country excluded from regional groupings.
Israel expects that in the next few months it will be formally included in the group of Western nations that meets in Geneva, according to the source.
The issue of Agenda Item 7 is still under debate, but until the matter is resolved, Western countries have agreed not to address the council with that item, the source said.
Only when both issues have been resolved will Israel consider that full ties have been reestablished.
But in the interim, the source said, Tuesday’s UPR appearance is an important step in that direction.