Israel is likely to become on Tuesday afternoon the first country to boycott a
United Nations Human Rights Council periodic review that all 193 member states
It is the council which Israel objects to, not the
Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of its human rights record, which it underwent in
Israel cut its ties with the UNHRC in March after the council
approved a fact-finding mission to investigate Israeli settlement activity in
the West Bank.
The mission is due to soon submit the settlement report to
the council, which is scheduled to debate it on March 18 during its 22nd
session, which begins on February 25.
“For the time being, there is no
change in our policy to withhold all contacts and cooperation with the UNHRC,”
said Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor. “As the UPR is an UNHRC
activity, we are not planning on taking part in it.”
On January 10,
Israel’s Ambassador to the UN in Geneva Eviatar Manor called UNHRC President
Remigiusz Henczel and asked for a postponement.
It was the first contact
between Israel and the council since last March. Henczel asked the ambassador to
submit a formal request.
The problem was made public two weeks ago, when Israel was absent from a meeting in which three states were chosen by lottery to
oversee its UPR.
Behind the scenes, a number of countries – including the
United States – have pushed Israel to participate in the process, fearing
Israel’s non-participation would set a precedent for other countries to boycott
Israel has had a tense relationship with the council since its
inception in 2006. The council has censured it more than any other country and
has created a special mechanism, Agenda Item 7, that ensures Israel’s activity
in the West Bank is a subject of debate at every council session.
UPR, however, is a standard procedure for all countries. The UNHRC has held a
first round of reviews and is now holding a second round.
In the first
round, it granted a temporary postponement to only one country, Haiti. At the
time of its scheduled review, it had just survived a massive
Council spokesman Rolando Gomez said he hoped Israel would
choose to participate in Tuesday’s proceedings, which move forward
“Regarding Israel’s scheduled UPR for tomorrow, the way
things are looking now there are two scenarios,” he said. “The first is that a
delegation from Israel shows up at the council meeting and undergoes their
universal periodic review. The second is that they do not turn up, and the
council decides on a course of action,” he said. He did not specify what that
action could be.
The US Ambassador to the UNHRC Eileen Chamberlain
Donahoe said last week that the council had a strong bias against Israel that
had not gone away.
Still, she said, “We have encouraged Israel to come to
the UPR, to tell its story, to present its own narrative of its human rights
situation. We think it is a good opportunity to do that.”
contributed to this report.