Ending boycott, Israel to attend UN human rights hearing

Prime minister dispatches diplomats to Geneva to participate in UNHRC meeting for first time in 18 months

The Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council (CC BY-US Mission Geneva/Flickr/File)
The Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council (CC BY-US Mission Geneva/Flickr/File)

After a year-and-a-half in the cold, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday decided that Israel would end its boycott of the UN Human Rights Council and attend a hearing scheduled for Tuesday.

Then-foreign minister Avigdor Liberman ordered the severing of Israeli ties with the council in March 2012 after the international organization said it would probe how Israeli settlements may be infringing on the rights of Palestinians.

“We will attend” the Universal Periodic Review held in Geneva, an Israeli official told AFP. Another Israeli diplomat tweeted the news, adding that “it’ll still be an unfair Council (see item 7) but we’ll do our part.”

Item 7 is the dedicated agenda issue of Israel’s human rights record debated at every council meeting. Israel has repeatedly contended that the UNHCR exhibits anti-Israel bias in its focus on the Jewish state’s human rights record, and the US has called on the council to cease said bias. 

According to Maariv, the Israeli delegation to the UNHCR will set out for Switzerland Sunday night ahead of Tuesday’s human rights hearing on Israel. Netanyahu reportedly only made his decision after lengthy deliberation and on account of European, American and Canadian pressure.

Haaretz on Sunday reported on a missive from German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle’s to Netanyahu, saying failure to appear in Geneva would have diplomatic repercussions that its allies could do little to mitigate. According to the paper, Australia, Canada, the US, Spain, France and Germany have all urged Israel to rejoin the council, claiming that it set a poor precedent for dictatorships such as Syria, Iran and North Korea.

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