Amid Netanyahu-Obama tensions, US abstains from taking floor to defend Israel at UNHRC

The step is unprecedented at the 47-member state forum where Washington unfailingly defends Israel.

March 23, 2015 11:28
1 minute read.
US President Barack Obama (L) and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu

US President Barack Obama (L) and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. (photo credit: REUTERS)

The United States will not take the floor at the United Nations Human Rights Council on Monday as it debates human rights violations committed in the Palestinian territories, a US spokesman told Reuters.

The step is unprecedented at the 47-member state forum, where Washington has unfailingly defended Israel since US President Barack Obama became president in 2009.

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The decision not to appear follows signals that the Obama administration is undertaking a "reassessment" of relations with the Jewish state.

"The US delegation will not be speaking about Palestine today," a US spokesman in Geneva told Reuters in response to a query as the debate began. He declined further comment.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's allies acknowledged on Sunday that his election-eve disavowal of a Palestinian state had caused a rift with the White House, but blamed Obama's unprecedented criticism on a misunderstanding.

It was the European Union who took the floor in defense of Israel during Agenda Item 7, which mandates that the UNHRC discuss Israeli human rights violations during every session.

Eliminating Agenda Item 7 has long been one of Obama’s policy objectives at the UNHRC. The EU said that while Israel had an obligation to uphold international law, it should be treated as any other country and any violations should be discussed under Agenda Item 4.

When the 28th UNHRC session opened in Geneva earlier this month US Secretary of State John Kerry took the floor and swore that the US would fight any effort to isolate and delegitimize Israel at the UN and elsewhere.

“We will oppose any effort by any group or participant in the UN system to arbitrarily and regularly delegitimize or isolate Israel, not just at the UN Human Rights Council, but wherever it occurs,” Kerry said.

While he applauded the UNHRC’s work in defense of human rights, he charged that it fell short with regard to Israel, which was often singled out and treated unfairly, particularly in Geneva.

“It must be said that the UNHRC’s obsession with Israel actually risks undermining the credibility of the entire organization. It has the potential to limit the good that we have to do,” Kerry said.

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