Israel has formally told the United Nations Human Rights Council in writing that
it seeks to restore the ties it broke off with that international body in March
2012, to protest the biased treatment it had received at its hands.
have been instructed to write to you and, in response to your latest letter of
14 May 2013, re-affirm my intention to continue our close and fruitful
dialogue,” Israel’s ambassador to the UNHRC, Eviatar Maner, wrote in a letter to
the council. It was dated June 3, but was published on the council’s website
only on Thursday.
“Moreover, I wish to cooperate with you and pursue a
diplomatic engagement with a view to positively resolve all outstanding issues
in Israel’s complex relationship with the Human Rights Council and its
mechanisms,” Maner said.
But Israeli diplomatic sources told The
that Jerusalem would agree to restore ties only upon receipt of
assurances that the council would treat it fairly.
It has asked the UNHRC
to abolish Item 7, a permanent point on the agenda under which member states
debate Israeli human rights violations in the Palestinian territories at each
The UNHRC is scheduled to hold its next Item 7 debate on Monday,
in which the special rapporteur Richard Falk, who is also the only special
investigator permanently assigned to a country, plans to issue a report on
In an unusual move the European Union spoke about Israel on
Wednesday during Agenda Item 4, which deals globally with human rights
situations in all 193 UN member states.
Typically, it would have made
that statement under Item 7, and diplomatic sources said they saw the statement
as a positive sign that movement might be possible on this issue.
statement the EU said that it was concerned about the situation in the
Palestinian territories and that it supported the United States drive to
relaunch direct negotiations.
“Long term peace and security can only be
sustained if human rights and international humanitarian law are fully respected
by all – and accountability for human rights violations is key,” the EU
Aside from abolishing Item 7, Israel has also asked 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 broke off
relations with the council to protest its creation of a fact-finding mission
into West Bank settlement activities. Since its inception in 2006, the council
has focused on Israeli activity more than on any other single UN
In speaking of Israel’s intention to reestablish ties with the
council late last month, Deputy Foreign Minister Ze’ev Elkin said that 43 of the
103 UNHRC resolutions against individual countries were issued against Israel.
Similarly, he said, six of its 19 emergency sessions were about
Still, Israel has been under international pressure to find a way
to return to the council, so that it can participate in its Universal Periodic
Review process through which the UNHRC examines the human rights record of the
UN’s 193 member states.
All these states, including Israel, participated
in the first round of reviews. But in January, Jerusalem abstained from the
second round of reviews, as part of its decision not to engage with the council
on any topic, even one it supports such as the UPR.
If Israel continues
to abstain from the UPR, it will be the first country to ignore the human rights
The international community is concerned that Israel’s abstention
will open the door for other countries, including those known as serious human
rights abusers, to similarly ignore the UPR.
Israel is part of a group of
14 countries whose UPRs will be discussed on Friday. As part of that discussion,
the UNHRC President Remigiusz Henczel will tell the council about Israel’s
letter, according to a statement he has already posted on the UNHRC
In the statement he explains that for months he has been urging
Israel to cooperate with the UPR process, and that he hopes it will do so by the
scheduled October 29 date for its review.