In Geneva, Haley to demand Human Rights Council change its treatment of Israel
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In Geneva, Haley to demand Human Rights Council change its treatment of Israel

UN envoy to 'outline changes that must be made,' including the body's 'practice of wrongly singling out Israel for criticism'

Eric Cortellessa covers American politics for The Times of Israel.

US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley  addresses the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) policy conference in Washington, DC, March 27, 2017. (AFP/Nicholas Kamm)
US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley addresses the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) policy conference in Washington, DC, March 27, 2017. (AFP/Nicholas Kamm)

WASHINGTON — With US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley set to address the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva on Tuesday, speculation has mounted that her speech will warn members to rectify its “anti-Israel bias” or face a hostile United States prepared to withdraw from the body.

On her trip, where she will explain America’s positions and concerns relating to several key issues, Haley is expected to feature Israel as prominent among them. “I will outline changes that must be made,” she made clear before departing.

Haley published an op-ed in The Washington Post over the weekend that lambasted the 47-member panel for its treatment of the Jewish state, echoing a familiar theme of hers since becoming US President Donald Trump’s envoy to the UN.

The council, which she had previously described as “so corrupt,” must “end its practice of wrongly singling out Israel for criticism. When the council passes more than 70 resolutions against Israel, a country with a strong human rights record, and just seven resolutions against Iran, a country with an abysmal human rights record, you know something is seriously wrong.”

According to Reuters, Haley, who holds cabinet rank in the Trump administration, will decide whether the US will exit the Human Rights Council after its three-week session ends later this month.

Her speech, the report said, will outline Washington’s demands for change from the body.

The council now counts among its 47 members Burundi, China, Congo, Cuba, Egypt, Ethiopia, the Philippines, Saudi Arabia and Venezuela, all of which have spotty rights records but won seats through its arcane system of regional blocs.

Trump has been seeking deep cuts in US funding for international organizations like the U.N. and the council.

John Fisher, Geneva director for Human Rights Watch, said many will be listening out for Haley’s tone.

“If the tone seeks to set the US above the rest of the world in terms of its commitment to human rights and multilateralism, I think that’s a message that will fall a bit flat” he said.

“That said, if the message is one of ‘Let’s work together’ to strengthen multilateral institutions to the benefit of everyone involved, then I think that’s a message that we can all work with,” he added.

Since taking her post earlier this year, Haley has said repeatedly that the US will not accept the UN’s consistent targeting of Israel for opprobrium.

“I wear heels. It’s not for a fashion statement,” she told a crowd of almost 18,000 at AIPAC’s March conference. “It’s because if I see something wrong, we’re going to kick ’em every single time.”

She went on to say the “days of Israel-bashing at the UN are over” and that there is “a new sheriff in town.”

Rumors of the US contemplating a Human Rights Council exit have been circulating in Washington since February.

Two unnamed sources reportedly told POLITICO at the time that Trump administration officials were mulling the move.

US criticism of the council is nothing new: President George W. Bush’s administration kept the United States out when it was created in 2006 in part because of repeated criticism of Israel. Obama brought back the US in 2009, hoping to make it more effective and even appointing an ambassador exclusively devoted to the council.

Trump has not nominated anyone to fill that post, and it’s far from certain whether he will.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson in March said the United States will not continue participating in the council unless it undergoes “considerable reform,” without elaborating. That same month, Haley told the Council on Foreign Relations : “I mean, the Human Rights Council is so corrupt … I think that we need to look at it.”

“We need to tell them what we want to see to make it effective,” she said.

AP contributed to this report

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