The United States reportedly could leave the United Nations Human Rights Council in protest of the body’s actions in general, and specifically its treatment of Israel.
Last week, America’s Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley called out the Human Rights Council for “breathtaking double standards” and “outrageously biased resolutions” against Israel, during a press conference after her first meeting with the UN Security Council.
And Haley’s opposition to the UNHRC may amount to more than just words, according to a Politico report Saturday night.
“There’s been a series of requests coming from the secretary of state’s office that suggests that [Secretary of State Rex Tillerson] is questioning the value of the US belonging to the Human Rights Council,” a former official was quoted as saying.
Citing two well-connected sources, the report said that one of the main reasons behind the US entertaining the option of leaving the UN body was its treatment of the Jewish state, which Haley described as unfair. But there are other issues as well, notably the oft-heard criticism that countries accused of gross human rights violations have been given seats on the 47-member council.
From 2013 to 2016, Saudi Arabia, China, Russia and Cuba all were members of the council, despite there being accusations of human rights violations against all of them.
The council also drew criticism in March 2012 for facilitating an event in which a representative of the Palestinian Hamas terror group was invited to speak.
Should US President Donald Trump’s administration opt out of the UNHRC, it wouldn’t be the first to shun the body.
When the UNHRC was created out of the discredited UN Human Rights Commission in 2006, then-US president George W. Bush refused to join the new group, believing that it would lack credibility and that, like its predecessor, it would allow human right violators to become members.
In 2009, president Barack Obama reversed that decision, hoping to improve the UNHRC.
“With others, we will engage in the work of improving the UN human rights system,” then-secretary of state Hillary Clinton said at the time.
Spokespeople for Tillerson and the US State Department did not respond to the Politico report.
However, it did not seem that the decision to drop out of the council would be made immediately.
“Our delegation will be fully involved in the work of the HRC session which starts Monday,” State Department spokesperson Mark Toner said.
Last week, Haley, the UN ambassador blasted the council for failing to discuss issues such as the buildup of illegal Hezbollah weapons, provided by Iran; strategies for defeating the Islamic State terror group; or holding holding Bashar Assad accountable for the slaughter of Syrian civilians.
“Instead,” she told reporters, “the meeting focused on criticizing Israel — the one true democracy in the Middle East. I am new around here, but I understand that’s how the council has operated month after month for decades.”
She added, “I‘m here to emphasize — the United States will stand up to the UN‘s anti-Israel bias. Instead, we will push for action on the real threats we face in the Middle East.”
On Friday, a spokesperson for the High Commissioner for Human Rights, which supervises the council, castigated Israel’s handling of the Elor Azaria case, in which an Israeli soldier was sentenced to 18 months in prison for shooting dead an incapacitated Palestinian assailant.
“We are deeply disturbed at the lenient sentence given by the Tel Aviv Military Court earlier this week to an Israeli soldier convicted of unlawfully killing a wounded Palestinian in an apparent extrajudicial execution of an unarmed man who clearly posed no imminent threat,” said Ravina Shamdasani, spokesperson for the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, at a press conference in Geneva.
In response, Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman said the Human Rights’ Council was “a council not on human rights but on hatred of Israel.”
The Jewish state has long accused the UN of having a double standard, and the US has traditionally vetoed Security Council resolutions it sees as one-sided against Israel. In November, however, the US withheld its veto on a resolution terming the West Bank settlements illegal, allowing the measure to pass and drawing an angry response from Jerusalem.