JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israel was formally invited to join a regional group within the United Nations Human Rights Council.
An invitation was sent Monday to Israel to join the Western European countries group, the French news agency AFP reported, citing an unnamed diplomatic source.
The West European and Others Group is a 28-nation bloc made up of European nations, the United States, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.
The European states had agreed to welcome Israel into the group in exchange for the Jewish state’s return to the Human Rights 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 the Jewish state.
Samantha Power, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, applauded the invitation.
“As President Obama has made clear, the United States opposes effort to undermine Israel’s legitimacy as a full and equal member of the community of nations, and will continue to work vigorously to end structural discrimination against Israel throughout the U.N. system,” she said.
Since 2006, the council has passed 27 resolutions criticizing Israel and 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.”
In January, Israel became the first country to refuse to attend the Universal Periodic Review, a review of a country’s rights record. All U.N. member nations are meant to submit regularly to the evaluation.
On Oct. 29, Israel participated in the review, during which it was widely criticized for alleged human rights abuses.