JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israel has agreed to cooperate with the United Nations Human Rights Council a year-and-a-half after severing contact with the international body.
Sunday’s announcement following the decision by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu means that Israel will participate Tuesday in a periodic review of the country’s human rights record, as do all of the Human Rights Council’s 193 member states.
Israel has been under pressure in recent weeks — most notably by the United States and Germany — to return to the Human Rights Council. Other countries, including Canada, Australia, Spain and France, also encouraged Israel to appear for the review, which will take place in Geneva.
Since boycotting the review in January, Israel has been granted several extensions. If it had not agreed to appear for the rescheduled review on Tuesday, Israel would have been the first country to boycott the review. Iran and Syria took part in the first round of the quadrennial process.
Israel launched its boycott of the council in March 2012 after the U.N. body appointed a fact-finding mission on how Israel’s West Bank settlements affect Palestinians.
In exchange for Israel’s participation in the review process, Western countries have agreed not to participate in a standing Human Rights Council agenda item that requires debate on Israeli human rights violations of the Palestinians, as well as work to add Israel to the membership of the council known as WEOG , or Western Europe and Others Group.
“Now is the time for the council to show good faith on its part — starting with the removal of its notorious agenda item on Israel, the only provision of its kind focusing on a specific country at every meeting,” said Hillel Neuer, executive director of UN Watch, a Geneva-based human rights group that monitors the United Nations. “Not even gross abusers like China, Sudan or Syria, nor any other country in the world, is subjected to this kind of treatment.”
Neuer also called on European Union states to “immediately enable Israel to join the council’s Western group, to which it was admitted at the U.N. in New York over a decade ago.”