Israel seeks to re-engage with UNHRC

In exchange for re-engagement Israel seeks pledge of fair treatment from the international body.

May 29, 2013 21:21
3 minute read.
THE MEETING hall of the United Nations Human Rights Council.

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

Israel seeks to re-establish ties with the United Nations Human Rights Council in exchange for a pledge of fair treatment from the international body with a seven year record of unfairly singling out the Jewish state, according to Deputy Foreign Minister Ze’ev Elkin.

“After much deliberation I have recently agreed to diplomatic engagement with the council to see if we can arrive at understandings and guarantees that will enable our return to the council by ensuring that fair play and international standards are applied toward the state of Israel,” Elkin said Tuesday at the Global Forum for Combatting Anti-Semitism in Jerusalem.

A delegation of officials is expected to head soon for Geneva to try and repair the relationship between Israel and the council, according to diplomatic sources.

Israel broke off ties with the council in March of 2012, to protest its decision to send a fact-finding mission to probe Israeli settlement activity over the pre-1967 lines.

But when Israel refused to participate in the council’s Universal Periodic Review of its human rights record last January, the international community urged it to reconsider.

Israel supports the UPR process through which the council reviews the human rights record of all 193 UN member states. The Council received cooperation from all UN member states during its first round of UPRs, including from Israel in 2008.

Israel was one of 14 countries scheduled for review last January. It refused to participate because of its March 2012 decision to cut ties with the council.
If Israel continues to abstain from the UPR, it will be the first country to ignore the human rights review.

The international community is concerned that Israel’s abstention will open the door for other countries, including those known as serious human rights abusers, to similarly ignore the UPR.

At the last moment, Israel agreed to delay the review until November. But next Thursday the council plans to approve the UPR for the other 13 countries that were debated in January. At that time, the council president must give at an update about Israel’s status with regard to that review.

The international community and the UN hopes that the president will be able to say that Israel is participating in the review, or that at the very least there is an ongoing dialogue about its possible participation.

On Tuesday
night at the Global Forum on Combatting Anti-Semitism in Jerusalem, Elkin explain Israel’s position with regard to the council.

Since its inception in 2006, 43 of the 103 resolutions against individual countries were issued against Israel, Elkin said. Similarly, he said, six of its 19 emergency sessions were about Israel.

Israel is the only country that has a space on the debate schedule for UNHRC each session, called Agenda Item 7.

“Can such a miserable record be defined as anything but anti-Semitism in the guise of anti-Israelism?” he asked. It was this kind of discrimination, he said, that caused Israel to cut its teis with the council.

“Many countries have asked us to change our policy” he said.

Israel should not expect to be perpetually discriminated against at the council, Elkin said. The council should change its treatment of Israel as part of the restoration of ties, he said.

On Monday at the opening of the UNHRC’s 23rd session, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay took issue with Israel’s treatment of Palestinian prisoners and its continued settlement activity.

“I remain deeply concerned by the widespread detention of Palestinians – nearly 5,000 of whom are currently detained by Israel, many without charges.  I recently requested that Israel provide me with information on its investigations into allegations of mistreatment of Palestinian detainees,” PIllay said.

“Furthermore, even during the nine weeks since the last session of this Council, Israel has continued to expand its settlements, in blatant violation of international law,” Pillay said.

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