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After U.S., Israel also backs away from U.N. human rights body

GENEVA – Diplomats said Friday that Israel has temporarily reduced its participation with the U.N.’s main human rights body, days after the United States pulled out largely over its allegation that the Human Rights Council is biased against Israel.

The diplomats in Geneva, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the matter publicly, said Israel had “lowered” its participation at the council to align its stance more with the U.S. position.

The diplomats cautioned that the move was not definitive and could change from day to day. Israel is not one of the council’s 47 member states, but has participated like most other countries as an observer.

Rolando Gomez, a spokesman for the council, confirmed that Israel was not participating in the council plenary Friday, where its seat sat empty. Israeli diplomats have not participated since a council discussion Thursday on discrimination against women.

In Israel, the Foreign Ministry declined to comment.

Israel has long had a tense relationship with the council, accusing it of unfair bias while ignoring or underplaying rights violations by other countries – including its own members. Human rights groups have criticized civil rights conditions in member states like China, Cuba, the Philippines and Venezuela.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu applauded the U.S. walkout announced Tuesday. The Trump administration insists the council is biased against Israel. The U.S. withdrawal marks the first time any member state has pulled out of the council in its 12 years of existence.

The walkout by the United States, Israel’s most vocal defender at the council, comes as the U.N.’s human rights office is set to release sometime in the future a list of companies whose activities in Israeli settlements are seen to harm human rights, notably of Palestinians.

Over U.S. objections, the council voted two years ago to order the rights office to compile the list.

Israel is concerned that the so-called blacklist could drive companies away and cast a further pall over its presence in the West Bank, home to many Palestinians.


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