After Year of Frozen Ties |

Israel Looking to Mend Ties With UN Rights Council, but Says 'Built-in Discrimination' Must End

Deputy Foreign Minister Zeev Elkin says Israel froze ties with UN Human Rights council last year because of its 'anti-Semitism' and anti-Israel agenda.

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Barak Ravid
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Barak Ravid

Deputy Foreign Minister Zeev Elkin confirmed on Tuesday that Israel is working to resume ties with the Geneva-based United Nations Human Rights Council. But he warned that any such resumption will depend on the council changing its “built-in discrimination” against Israel.

Speaking at the Global Forum for Combating Anti-Semitism in Jerusalem, Elkin noted that Israel froze relations with the UN agency a year ago because of its ongoing discrimination against Israel, which he even termed “anti-Semitism.” But since then, Elkin said, many countries have asked Israel to resume cooperating with the council.

“After much deliberation I recently agreed to diplomatic engagement with the Council and major actors in the international community to see if we can arrive at understandings and guarantees that will enable our return to the council while ensuring that fair play and international standards are applied towards Israel,” Elkin told the conference, confirming what Haaretz reported earlier this month.

A senior Foreign Ministry official said that a few days ago, Elkin ordered Israel's ambassador to the United Nations in Geneva, Aharon Leshno-Yaar, who heads the ministry’s International Organizations Division, to go to council’s headquarters in Geneva and begin negotiations on a resumption of ties.

In his speech, Elkin listed several issues that Israel plans to raise during these negotiations. Saying that the council suffers from “built-in discrimination” against Israel, he elaborated, “Israel is not a member of any regional grouping and it is the only country which has an agenda item, the infamous item 7, specifically to condemn its so called violations of human rights.

“While all along countries such as North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Yemen and others, not known for their protection of minorities, freedom of the press and other political and civil rights, are never or are only rarely condemned,” he continued, “46 of 103 country-related resolutions and 6 of the 19 Special Sessions, since the establishment of the Human Rights Council, were against Israel.”

Three weeks ago, Haaretz reported that at a meeting between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Swiss Foreign Minister Didier Burkhalter, the latter urged that Israel resume cooperation with the UNHRC.

Elkin was also present at that meeting, and Netanyahu gave him the job of finding a compromise that would allow Israel to do so.

In March 2012, the council decided to set up an “international fact-finding mission” on “Israeli settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem.” Israel was furious at this decision, which it termed one-sided, and said it constituted additional proof that the council has a blatantly anti-Israel agenda.

A few days later, then-Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman announced at a press briefing that he had ordered his ministry to sever all contact with the Human Rights Council, as well as the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.

Lieberman made this decision on his own initiative, without holding any discussion in the inner cabinet or even consulting Netanyahu.

The UN Human Rights Council in Geneva. Credit: Reuters
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Deputy Foreign Minister Ze'ev Elkin. Credit: Olivier Fitoussi

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