Israel joins regional group at UN, obtains observer status on Latin American trade body

Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman said the move shows ‘very different’ reality regarding country’s ‘isolation.’

February 12, 2014 00:02
4 minute read.
THE MEETING hall of the United Nations Human Rights Council.

United Nations Human Rights Council 370. (photo credit: Reuters)


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Reports of Israel’s international “isolation” have been greatly exaggerated, Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman said Tuesday, announcing Israel’s new membership in two international groupings.

“Next time you hear reports of diplomatic isolation or a wave of boycotts threatening Israel, know that the reality is very different,” he wrote on his Facebook page, announcing Israel’s membership in a UN grouping known as JUSCANZ and the observer status it gained in the Pacific Alliance in Latin America.

“Israel continues and will continue to be a leading nation with the best minds in the world, and we will continue to strengthen and improve our relations with the international community,” he wrote.

JUSCANZ is a regional consultative grouping to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva and some other UN bodies. Israel was admitted to the group in Geneva in 2010, and now has joined their deliberations in New York as well, giving it greater standing in the world body.

JUSCANZ is comprised of 15 non-EU democratic countries, including Japan, the United States, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. Israel’s admission into this group, which also includes Norway, Switzerland and other western countries, indicated that it sees Israel as a like-minded country.

Ambassador to the UN Ron Prosor, who coordinated Israel’s push to join this grouping, said the admission “corrects a historic wrong. Israel’s admission to this group is another manifestation of the international respect for Israel democracy.”

The US and Canada were instrumental in paving the way for the admission, which comes two months after Israel was admitted as part of the Western European and Others Group in the UN.

"Today, for the first time, Israel participated in one of the core coordinating groups focused on human rights and social policy at the United Nations," US ambassador to the UN Samantha Power said. "Israel’s participation in the 'JUSCANZ' caucus in the United Nation’s Third Committee is an important step toward securing Israel’s full participation across the UN system."

"The United States has long been a tireless advocate for Israel’s full participation and inclusion at the UN. Today’s inclusion, coupled with our successful efforts to secure Israel’s membership in the Western European and Others Group (WEOG) last November in Geneva, are important steps in the right direction. Israel is now able to fully participate in the main regional and core coordinating groups in New York and Geneva where much of the behind-the-scenes work at the UN gets done.

While more work remains, the United States will combat every effort to undermine Israel’s legitimacy as a full and equal member of the community of nations, including by ending the various forms of structural discrimination against Israel throughout the UN system."

Liberman also announced that Israel had formally been accepted as an observer to the Pacific Alliance, a free-trade bloc of five Latin American countries – Mexico, Colombia, Peru, Chile and Costa Rica – that grouped together have the eighth-largest economy in the world.

Israel is the first Middle East country to be granted observer status in this group, and as such it will be invited to take part in the staff work of the alliance and attend its conferences, which will facilitate the advancement of cooperation with its member states.

“Israel’s admittance as an observer is testimony to its good relations with the member countries, and the mutual desire to develop the relationship,” Liberman wrote. He said this bloc, with 212 million people, is an “attractive” market for Israel, with growing spending power.

While observer status only allows Israel to participate in the alliance’s staff work and attend its conferences, the move is the first step in expanding relations with a group whose combined economies amount to some $2 trillion, outpacing India’s.

“In today’s world, where there is a recession in Europe and there was in the US, [and] Asia is not growing as expected or hoped, Latin America is a very attractive market for Israeli technology and goods,” Jonathan Peled, director of the Foreign Ministry’s economic department, told The Jerusalem Post.

Israel sends a mere 1 percent of its exports to the group, meaning there is substantial room for growth.

While increasing economic ties to a prosperous region is in itself a goal, closer economic ties also translate to politics. Though the talks for observer status began over a year ago, before the hype developed around European boycotts, Israel has increasingly made efforts to develop ties with non-European markets in Asia, Africa and now Latin America.

Netanyahu on Tuesday said the Pacific Alliance’s decision was “diversifying the State of Israel’s international markets.”

It may also be an effort to counter increasing Iranian influence in the Americas.

Maya Shwayder contributed to this report.

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