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Israeli officials concerned by U.S. pullout from human rights council

Nikki Haley speaks with Israeli UN representative Danny Danon. Photo: Atilgan Ozdil/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

Israeli foreign ministry officials tell me they are concerned that U.S. withdrawal from the UN human rights council will make it harder to block anti-Israeli initiatives on the council. The officials say that even though they feel the council is extremely biased against Israel, U.S. membership helped to soften or fend off some anti-Israeli steps.

Why it matters: Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and UN Ambassador Nikki Haley said in their announcement yesterday that one of the reasons for the U.S. withdrawal was the council's bias against Israel. Yesterday, Prime Minister Netanyahu welcomed the U.S. announcement and called the decision "a courageous decision against the hypocrisy and the lies of the so-called UN Human Rights Council."

Despite Netanyahu's remarks, senior Israeli foreign ministry officials tell me the timing of the U.S. withdrawal is problematic because it comes a few months before current UN human rights commissioner Prince Zaid Bin Raad ends his term. The said they hoped the U.S. would at least stay in the council until after the new commissioner's appointment, in order to ensure the person appointed for the job is more balanced.

The Israeli officials say there are at least two big anti-Israeli initiatives which will be much harder to block or deal with now that the U.S. has left the council:

  • The publication of the database or "blacklist" of Israeli and international companies which operate in the Jewish settlements in the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights. A few months ago, U.S. pressure led the U.N. human rights commissioner to postpone the publication of the list.
  • The formation of a commission of inquiry on the violent clashes on the border between Israel and Gaza. The council has decided to form the inquiry, but Israeli officials tell me they are concerned that without the U.S. it will be close to impossible to influence the commission's composition, mandate and conclusions.