Israel to UN: We'll improve treatment of minorities
Israeli envoy also vows country will better treat prisoners, rejects calls to abolish death penalty.
The Israeli envoy to the United Nations in Geneva said Thursday Israel will improve its treatment of minorities and prisoners, taking on board some suggestions made in a review of its human rights record before the UN.
But Israel rejected calls to abolish the death penalty, noting that it was last applied to Nazi mastermind Adolf Eichmann in 1962 and has since been effectively suspended, Israel's ambassador Aharon Leshno-Yaar said.
Israel received 54 recommendations from other countries as part of the UN Human Rights Council's regular scrutiny of all the global body's members. Many suggestions focused on Israel's continued occupation of Palestinian territory and alleged abuses against the population there.
Leshno-Yaar declined to address the Palestinian issue directly, provoking anger from several Arab and Muslim nations, and forcing adoption of the report on Israel to be postponed until Friday.
"Israel takes note of the recommendation to intensify its efforts to ensure that human rights are respected in the fight against terrorism," he said - diplomatic language meaning the country won't heed outside opinion on the matter.
Of his country's treatment of minorities, Leshno-Yaar said it would redouble efforts to increase women's representation in society, address gaps between the various populations and raise the percentage of the Arab minority in the civil service.
Responding to demands from Denmark, Britain and Canada that prison conditions be improved and allegations of torture be investigated, he said Israel will strive to meet its international obligations.
Leshno-Yaar also said that those who object to serving in Israel's army service on conscientious grounds will be allowed to fulfill their obligatory national service with a civilian body independent of the military.
It was the first time that Israel appeared before the Geneva-based council's newly created review, which is designed to examine each country's record every four years.
The council's recommendations are not binding.