Lapid: US should leave UNHRC, halt funding

Since its creation in 2006, the UNHRC has been criticized by the US for its biased treatment of Israel, which it has condemned more than any other country.

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February 27, 2017 01:03
3 minute read.
YESH ATID chairman Yair Lapid is on a mission to transform Israel’s entire political culture, aiming

YESH ATID chairman Yair Lapid is on a mission to transform Israel’s entire political culture, aiming to pull it back to the Center.. (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)

 
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The United States should leave the UN Human Rights Council and stop funding that body, Yesh Atid party head Yair Lapid wrote Sunday in a letter to leaders of the US House of Representatives and Senate.

“I call on the United States Congress to end the funding of the UN Human Rights Council,” Lapid wrote in the letter penned in following a report in Politico that the Trump administration may consider withdrawing from the 47-member Geneva-based body, which has been sharply criticized by the US and Israel for its partial stance against the Jewish state.

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Since its creation in 2006, the UNHRC has been criticized by the US for its biased treatment of Israel, which it has condemned more than any other country, including persistent human rights abusers such as Iran and Syria.

According to Politico, while “the council’s targeting of Israel is likely part of the debate [to withdraw], there also are questions about its roster of members and doubts about its usefulness overall.

“The fight against the delegitimization of Israel should be a bipartisan one, and the Human Rights Council is the rotten core of that antisemitic campaign,” Lapid said.

“This move would signal that the era of hijacking human rights for the campaign against Israel and against the Jewish people is over. With US leadership, we hope other countries will follow,” he said.

Under former US president George W. Bush, the US initially refused to seek a seat on the 47-member body and then withdrew from it altogether in 2008. Former president Barack Obama reversed that position upon entering office, believing the UNHRC could best be changed from within.

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During the Obama administration, the US held two consecutive terms on the council, from 2009 to 2015, and is now serving a three-year membership term that began in 2016.

The US often has been the sole country to vote against anti-Israel resolutions at the UNHRC.

Israel has never held a membership seat in the UNHRC, but participates in its debates as do all 193 UN member states. As a non-member state of the UN, the Palestinians also have participatory rights at the UNHRC.

Israel temporarily cut its ties to the UNHRC in 2014 and 2015. Though it has restored its relationship, it boycotts the Agenda Item 7 debate; The UNHRC is mandated to debate the issue of Israeli human rights abuses against the Palestinians at every session.

Israel is the only country for which there is such a mandate.

The Politico story prompted a number of reactions on Twitter both in favor and against the move.

“US decision to quit the insanely anti-Israel UN Human Rights Council would send a moral message to the world,” wrote Kulanu MK and former ambassador to the US Michael Oren.

In contrast, former US ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro argued that US membership in the council made a difference.

“UNHRC has been plagued by anti-Israel bias. But with US membership, anti-Israel resolutions declined & new focus was put on Iran, Syria.”

Hillel Neuer, the executive director of the Geneva-based NGO UN Watch, tweeted a similar stance.

“The UN Human Rights Council is a nasty place through and through.

US left in ’06; it didn’t help. We need a [US ambassador to the UN] Nikki Haley here to fight back.”

Malcolm Hoenlein, executive vice chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations, told The Jerusalem Post there is a question of whether the US should pull out of the UN altogether.

“It’s not feasible. It doesn’t make sense” he said, noting that the bias against Israel was seen throughout the UN organizations.

But, he said, it should be possible to send the UN a message about changing its overall stance on Israel.

“We want to see the UN strengthened and not weakened, but we want it to be strengthened based on its original principles. They are being violated every day and singularly against Israel. The 500,000 people in Syria and all the terrible things that happened there get a shrug or a passing message, and Israel becomes the subject of a UNSC resolution and 20 resolutions at the UN General Assembly,” Hoenlein said.

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