Six of Israel’s allies in the West have demanded an upgrade of its status on the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva.
A Western diplomat said the demand by these six countries, members of the Western European and Others Group in the UN, was made in the wake of Israel’s agreement to resume ties with the UNHRC and appear two weeks ago at the council’s Universal Periodic Review on human rights issues.
On November 6, the ambassadors of the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, Germany, France and the United States sent a letter to the UN’s institutions in Geneva and to the ambassador of Spain, who heads the group of Western countries on the HRC. In the letter, a copy of which was sent to Haaretz, the six ambassadors wrote that the time had come to bring Israel into the WEOG.
“We, the undersigned, would like by this letter to recall Israel’s longstanding request to join the WEOG regional group in Geneva. We are strongly supportive of Israel’s membership at the earliest opportunity. We request that you kindly include this issue on the agenda of the next WEOG meeting in Geneva, to be held as soon as possible,” the letter read in part.
If the bid to bring Israel into the WEOG succeeds, it will be more difficult to isolate and condemn Israel. It will also be easier for Israel to propose diplomatic initiatives of its own in the HRC.
A Western diplomat told Haaretz that the effort is likely to succeed because most of the WEOG’s countries do not oppose Israel’s inclusion. Only two countries, Iceland and Liechtenstein, had reservations about it, while two others, Ireland and Turkey, expressed neither opposition nor support. “We will persuade the undecided countries too,” the Western diplomat said.
On October 29, Israel attended the Universal Periodic Review in the UNHRC in Geneva. This was after Israel boycotted the UNHRC for more than a year and a half because of its decision to establish an international investigative committee about the settlements.
In recent months, negotiations took place between Israel and the WEOG for Israel’s return to the HRC. Allies such as the U.S., Australia, Germany and the U.K. put heavy pressure on Israel to attend the hearing. In exchange, the Western countries promised to restrict the use of Agenda Item 7, which stipulates that a separate discussion on human rights in Israel and in the West Bank take place at every session of the HRC. Israel is the only country in the world regarding which such a rule exists.
The Western European countries promised to make no statements or speeches during sessions that would come under Agenda Item 7, and to render any such statements empty of content. This promise will apply to the HRC’s next two sessions, which will take place over the next two years. A unanimous decision of all the group’s members will be required to lift the restrictions on Agenda Item 7 — and unanimous decisions are difficult to obtain.
The Western countries also promised to bring Israel’s inclusion in the WEOG as a full member up for a vote in November. Israel is not a member of any regional group, which results in its isolation and makes it very difficult for Israel to garner support for diplomatic positions or actions.