Israel’s willingness to release Palestinian prisoners who killed its citizens shows that it is serious about peace, Ambassador Eviatar Manor told the United Nations Human Rights Council on Tuesday, as his country made its first appearance before that Geneva based body since it cut off ties a year-and-a-half ago.

“All of them have blood on their hands; all of them have murdered Israelis. Their release, I believe, illustrates Israel’s determination to reach an agreement with our Palestinians neighbors that will, once and for all, end the conflict,” said Manor. He is Israel’s representative to the UN in Geneva.

Although full formal ties between Israel and the UNHRC have not yet been restored, Israel when faced with a final deadline, agreed to participate in the council’s Universal Periodic Review (UPR) process of its human rights record.

Manor spoke hours before the expected release of 26 Palestinian prisoners. That release and the peace process in general, played a large role in the three-hour debate that involved statements from 73 UN nations.

Israel’s report of its human rights record, dealt with human rights struggles for Israeli citizens in areas of the country within the pre- 1967 lines and east Jerusalem, where Israeli law fully applies.

Some of the nations that spoke at the review expressed their concern about Israel’s treatment of Beduin in the Negev, Israeli Arabs, asylum seekers and women.

The Untied States asked that Israel ensure that the Orthodox Rabbinate could not discriminate against non-Orthodox Jews, non-Jews and women.

But the bulk of the debate dealt with Israel’s treatment of Palestinians in the West Bank. Israel was also chastised for its actions in east Jerusalem.

There were multiple calls by UN states for Israel to withdraw from the West Bank and east Jerusalem as well as for the end of its blockade of Gaza.

There were some countries that called on Israel to recognize the Palestinian right of return, including the Palestine Liberation Organization representative.

“The main challenge Israel is facing is our relations with the Palestinians,” Manor said.

Israel desires to make peace with the Palestinians and has welcomed the renewed negotiations with them, he said.

Manor explained that Israel faces security threats, including from terror attacks, that make it difficult to always protect human rights.

“Such challenges strain the delicate balance between effective steps necessary to overcome the various threats to a state’s security and the protection of human rights,” Manor said.

The PLO’s representative attacked Israel’s delayed participation in the UPR process and its decision to cut its ties with the council, saying that Israel should be obligated under the same rules and regulations as other countries.

“Israel only understands the language of pressure,” the PLO representative told the council.

He explained that Israel’s report had no value because it did not address all the concerns.

Manor told the council that Israel had many reservations about participating in the review.

“It was not an easy decision to make,” he said.

Manor explained that it had cut its ties with the council in March 2012, because since the UNHRC’s inception in 2006 it had singled Israel out either for special sessions, investigatory missions or censures, more than any other country.

“Israel made its decision [to appear at the UPR] because we respect UN resolutions, human rights in general and human rights mechanisms in particular,” he said. “I will continue my efforts to restore our relations with the council and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.”

After the press conference he clarified that full ties had not yet been restored with the UNHRC, but that efforts to do so were ongoing.

He explained that Israel needed to be treated like other member states in two critical ways. It must belong to a regional group in Geneva, in this case the Western Group.

And the mandate that Israel be debated at every session, under a procedure called Agenda Item 7, must be abolished, he said.

Israel’s UPR will be evaluated by Sierra Leone, Venezuela and Maldives. Their report is to be delivered on Thursday and voted upon on Friday.

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