(JTA) — Israel may join for the first time a regional group within the United Nations Human Rights Council as part of a deal to improve the U.N. body’s relations with the Jewish state.
The council’s Western European and Others Group (WEOG) is expected to announce that its member states have voted in favor of Israel’s admittance, The Times of Israel reported Friday.
The European states had agreed to welcome Israel into their midst in exchange for the Jewish state’s return to the council and its participation in its Universal Periodic Human Rights Review process.
Israel had left the council a year and a half ago to protest its alleged bias against it.
Since 2006, the council has passed 27 resolutions criticizing Israel and has convened 19 special sessions, six of which were about Israel. Regular sessions feature a permanent agenda item 7, “the human rights situation in Palestine and other occupied Arab territories.”
U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and several Western nations have criticized the council for singling Israel out for criticism.
“Though it’s not yet final, we are hopeful that Israel will very soon be admitted into the Human Rights Council’s Western group, putting an end to a longstanding act of discrimination whereby the Jewish state was the only nation to be excluded from a regional group,” said Hillel Neuer, director of UN Watch, an NGO that monitors the United Nations.
Admission to the group would allow Israel to participate with all other U.N. member states in receiving regular briefings, and would enable it to have a say in the selection of council investigators, Neuer said. “More than anything, admission for Israel would be a sign of equal treatment, removing what has been an ugly stain of bigotry upon the reputation of the U.N.”
However, he added, “it will not detract from the Arab states’ continued ability to target Israel in resolutions, urgent sessions and a special agenda item.”
Earlier this month, senior diplomats from the United States, Britain, Australia, Canada, Germany and France sent a letter to the U.N.’s institutions in Geneva and to the ambassador of Spain, who heads the WEOG, telling them to finally admit Israel into their circle.
On Oct. 29, Israel participated in the council’s so-called Universal Periodic Review, during which it was widely criticized for alleged human rights abuses.