The Beduin in the Negev and Women of the Wall in Jerusalem are among the many issues Israel is prepared to address, when it breaks its boycott of the UN Human Rights Council and appears before it in Geneva on Tuesday for the first time in a year-and- a-half.
Eviatar Manor, Israel’s Ambassador to the UN in Geneva, phoned UNHRC president Remigiusz Henczel of Poland on Sunday to inform him of Israel’s decision to meet its final deadline to participate in the Universal Periodic Review process that all 193 UN member nations must undergo.
Manor will represent Israel at the review of its overall human rights record. Questions posed to Israel in advance of the hearing deal with human rights issues on both sides of the pre-1967 lines.
Nongovernmental organizations provided the UN with further information on alleged Israeli human rights violations. The UN report on Israel also listed its lack of compliance with the international body, particularly with special investigators and investigatory missions.
A report on its human rights activities, which Israel has now given the council, provided a positive account of advances in a host of human rights issues with regard to gender, disabilities, human trafficking, children, education, migrants and Beduin.
In some instances Israel presented positive pictures of issues for which it has been criticized abroad, such as the treatment of women at the Western Wall and plans to relocate the Beduin in the Negev.
But Israel skipped over questions with regard to its treatment of Palestinians in the West Bank and spoke instead about the peace process in general.
“Israel is willing to make painful compromises towards peace and will act to achieve this through negotiations conducted on the basis of mutual recognition, signed agreements and cessation of violence,” the report said.
It also quoted from Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s statements in support of the peace process.
Israel last underwent a UPR with the UNHRC in December 2008 and had been scheduled to do so for a second time in January of this year.
But the review was delayed due to Israel’s decision in March of 2012 to break off ties with the UNHRC. Since the council’s inception in 2006, Israel had persistently complained about the council’s biased actions, including a disproportionate number of censures leveled against Israel and special sessions held on its activities in the West Bank and Gaza.
Western countries have since pressured Israel to return to the council so it could participate in the UPR. It feared that if Israel became the first country to boycott the UPR, it would undermine that process and embolden countries such as Iran and Syria to similarly abstain.
Israel on Sunday agreed to participate in the UPR, but has hesitated to state that it has fully restored ties. It is waiting for the UNHRC to make changes to ensure that it is more equitably treated, such as abolishing Agenda Item 7, under which Israel is debated at every UNHRC session.
No other country is permanently on the agenda in this way.
Israel also wants to be included in the Western regional group that meets in Geneva. At present Israel is not part of any the regional UN groups in Geneva, although it is part of the Western group in New York.