Biden Administration Wants to Return to the UNHRC

The UN body that the Trump administration tried, and failed, to make less obsessively anti-Israel.

Of all the UN’s various bodies and agencies, UNRWA and the UN Human Rights Council are the most dedicated, in their different ways, to blackening the image of Israel. The UNHRC includes among its current members such countries as China, Russia, and Pakistan, all well-known for their solicitousness for human rights. The Council has on its permanent To-Do List Agenda Item #7, which is devoted to Israel and the “human rights” situation of the Palestinians. That means Israel is brought up for discussion, and a resolution against it adopted, at every session of the UNHRC. Since 2006, 160 resolutions criticizing individual countries have been passed at the UNHRC. Ninety of those 160 were about Israel; the other seventy resolutions covered the other 192 members of the UN. In other words, many more resolutions were directed at Israel than at all the other countries in the world combined. This is the UN body that the Trump administration had tried, and failed, to make less obsessively anti-Israel. So having concluded that the UNHRC was incapable of reform, the Americans, during the Trump Administration, in protest at the continuing anti-Israel bias, simply quit.

Now Tony Blinken wants to rejoin the UNHRC, by running for one of the open seats in this year’s election. The announcement is here: “Blinken: US to run for UNHRC seat, abolish anti-Israel bias,” by Tovah Lazaroff, Jerusalem Post, February 24, 2021:

The United States plans to run for a seat on the United Nations Human Rights Council, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Wednesday as he decried the 47-member body’s bias against Israel and called for its Agenda Item 7 to be abolished.

“I’m pleased to announce the United States will seek election to the Human Rights Council for the 2022-24 term,” Blinken said as he spoke at the virtual high-level meeting of the 46th session which opened Monday and ends on March 23.

Former US president Donald Trump exited the UNHRC in 2018, abandoning the US seat, to protest the council’s bias against Israel, which is the subject of more resolutions than any other country.

US President Joe Biden rejoined the council, but as a participant and not a voting member. The US can regain its seat only through elections held annually by the UN General Assembly in New York.

“We humbly ask for the support of all UN member states in our bid to return to a seat in this body,” Blinken said.

He lauded the UNHRC for its important work in highlighting global human rights abuses, but chastised it for its treatment of Israel.

“We urge the Human Rights Council to look at how it conducts its business. That includes its disproportionate focus on Israel,” Blinken said.

We need to eliminate Agenda Item 7 and treat the human rights situation in Israel and the Palestinian territories the same way as this body handles any other country,” he said.

Blinken is hoping to accomplish what no previous administration has managed. He thinks that once the U.S. is again a member, of the Council, it will be able to persuade or cajole or pressure others to do away with Agenda Item #7, and to judge Israel by the same standards – neither better nor worse – as are applied to all other countries.

Perhaps there is a better chance than before to reform the UNHRC. Certainly the UNHRC was brought up short once by the Americans leaving their seat on the Council in 2018, and will not wish to repeat the experience. It would not look good if this new administration, so vocally  determined to re-engage with the world – “America is back” – and to return to international agreements, such as the Paris Climate Accords, and the Iran nuclear deal, were to be turned down flat in its attempts to reform the UNHRC. Assuming it will be voted in as a new member – the voting nations are going to want America, now under new management, to again be part of the UNHRC – Blinken should at the first sign of another anti-Israel resolution instruct his ambassador to raise holy hell, showing the other members of the Council that while Trump may be gone, his dim view of the UNHCR is shared by the new administration.

Blinken should, through his ambassador, raise the matter of the mistreatment of Israel – the Jewish state as a whipping-boy — at every session of the Council, making clear he will give the UNHRC a year or two – not more — to show a marked improvement in its treatment of Israel, before “we consider other options.” That will be understood, correctly, as a threat to leave. It’s one thing when Trump, who by the time he pulled out of the UNHRC, had been demonized by the world’s media, leaves the Council; it’s quite another when the Good Cop who succeeded him, and is trying to re-engage with the world and be so very reasonable, ends up displaying the same disgust with the UNHRC as his predecessor.

The first task for the Americans at the UNHRC is to eliminate Agenda Item #7, pointing out – continuously — the absurdity of this singling out of one tiny state for repeated denunciation at every single session. The second is to conduct a campaign in the world’s media, raising again and again the unanswerable, embarrassing, question: how is it that more resolutions have been passed against Israel in the UNHRC than against all the other 192 nations put together? Third, just as American inducements helped to persuade four Arab states to normalize ties with Israel, the American government has many things to offer or withhold, bringing considerable pressure, both threats and cajolements, to bear on other members, in order that they reconsider their senseless, mechanical, even robotic, anti-Israel stance. Washington can make it worth their while to come to their senses.

And if they don’t, the Trump Administration has already provided a salutary model of how to walk out.

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