After years of exclusion and discrimination, Israel approved into the Western and Others Group of the U.N. Human Rights Council

israel-UNHRC(1)By YOSSI LEMPCOWICZ

The approval of Israel’s membership in the Western European and Others Group (WEOG) of the U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva, must be considered as “the end of a period of discrimination, exclusion and historical wrong.”

It will provide Israel with some influence before the top U.N. Human Rights body and its voice will be heard “loud and clear.”

“Israel is now a full member of the regional group in the Human Rights Council and that means we can play a bigger role in the human rights activities in Geneva,” said Aharon Leshno Yaar, the Israeli Foreign Ministry Deputy Director General for UN and International Organizations.

“The UNHRC without Israel is a flawed institution. Now with Israel fully engaged it will have greater credibility. Israel will also enjoy the recognition of being a full member of the community of nations,” he said.

Although geographically located in Asia, hostile Arab and Muslim states have blocked Israel from joining the Asian group on the 47-member council, leaving it without representation within any geographic grouping.

U.S. Ambassador to the U.N., Samantha Power, said Israel’s entry into the Group is important, because until now it has been structurally denied the opportunity that every other U.N. member has.

That opportunity, she said, is membership in one of the regional bodies that “shape policy and determine leadership posts” at the U.N.’s Human Rights Council.

The group and others like it act in an advisory capacity but have no formal standing with the 47-nation council, in which the U.S. is a member but Israel is not.

But Israel will be able to participate in related activities such as meetings with senior UN officials as invitations to such meetings goes through the regional groups. And as a WEOG member, Israel can “elect and be elected to positions in the UNHRC.”

“For far too long Israel has been unfairly excluded from regional bodies at the United Nations,” Power said in a statement.

Israel cut ties with the UNHRC in March 2012 to protest what it said was anti-Israel bias by that body, which had censured it more than any other country.

In October, however, it agreed to participate in the UNHRC’s Universal Period Review of its human rights record, but said it was waiting for an invitation from WEOG before it would formally re-establish ties.

In agreeing to reengage with the UNHRC, Israel accepted a compromise on its second demand, the elimination of “Agenda Item seven”.

This is a standing item, under which Israeli treatment of the Palestinians is debated at every UNHRC session. No other country, but Israel, is automatically scheduled into the UNHRC agenda.

Yaar said that the EU and other friends of Israel have decided “to limit significantly their involvement in discussions under ‘Agenda Item seven’.”