Israel invited to join UN’s Western nations group in Geneva

Israeli official sees move as beginning of "normalization" of relations between Israel, UN bodies in Geneva.

December 1, 2013 01:12
2 minute read.
OVERVIEW OF the Human Rights Council at the UNHRC

UNHRC 521. (photo credit: Reuters)


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The United Nations is expected to formally invite Israel to join its group of Western nations in Geneva on Monday, a move that is critical for Israel’s continued involvement in the United Nations Human Rights Council.

Israel is part of the Western European and Others Group at the UN’s headquarters in New York. But until Friday, that group’s counterpart (also called WEOG) in the United Nations Office at Geneva had refused to allow Israel to be a member.

Arab nations have barred Israel’s participation in the UN’s Asian group into which Israel geographically falls, thereby moving it over into WEOG as the only other available option.

The issue of Israeli membership in WEOG in Geneva and in New York is more than a formality, because elections to UN bodies occur through a nation’s participation in regional groupings.

“We have finally been admitted as a member of a geographic group [in Geneva], which means that our relations with the UN bodies in Geneva will be more or less normalized, and the exclusion and marginalization from which Israel suffered will start to be removed,” an Israeli official said.

Israel is not expected to issue a formal response until it receives the WEOG invitation on Monday.

Israel had made its acceptance to WEOG in Geneva a precondition to resuming its ties with the UN Human Rights Council.

According to Israeli officials, Israel’s lack of membership in any UN regional group in Geneva meant that it did not have the same rights granted to other UN member states.

Specifically in Geneva, the result was that Israel could never be elected to the UNHRC.

Israel cut its ties with the UNHRC in March 2012, to protest its decision to create a fact-finding mission to investigate Israel’s settlement activities.

Officials in Jerusalem argued that the mission was part of a long-standing UNHRC bias against it, evidenced in the disproportionate number of censures leveled against Israel and in the special sessions held on its activities in the West Bank and Gaza.

In October, Israel agreed to reengage with the council by participating in its Universal Periodic Review Process, on the understanding that WEOG membership would follow.

An Israeli official said the UN should have long ago addressed Israel’s inability to fully participate in its Geneva-based institutions.

“We do wonder, why did it take some door slamming before they finally understood that that our situation was intolerable?” the official said.

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