Israel at the UN

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Israel ends 20-month boycott of  UN Forum on Business and Human Rights /Image: AFP

Israel ends 20-month boycott of UN Forum on Business and Human Rights /Image: AFP

Israel returns to the UN amidst Syrian Conflict

Article: Tatenda Chikukwa – Contributor

After a harsh warning from German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle, Israel decided to end its 20-month boycott of the UN Forum on Business and Human Rights. The German minister said defaulting on the forum would do “severe diplomatic damage” to Israel’s international reputation.

Israel left the forum because of the criticism it received for policies regarding the settlement of the West Bank and eastern Jerusalem. The forum’s purpose is to conduct a periodic review of all member states implementation of ethical practices pertaining to human rights and business. Topics of discussion include the UN “protect, respect and remedy” framework, possible areas of cooperation with governments, integrating a gender perspective and the development of domestic legislation and policies relating to business and human rights.

33 of the over 80 states in the UN forum recognized the territory Israel is expanding into as Palestinian territory, which prompted a review of Israel’s human rights record. Israel views itself as a target of bias and seeked to defend its position.

“I hope our appearance here today will go a long way to restore equality and fairness regarding Israel in Geneva,” said Israel’s ambassador in Geneva, Eviatar Manor. Palestinian ambassador Ibrahim Khraishi used the forum as an opportunity to call an end to the violation of human rights and release of Palestinian prisoners. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has been officiating peace talks between the two nations for months. Israel has since freed a second group of 26 prisoners to show confidence in the re-engagement of Israeli-Palestinian peace talks. The release has angered some Israeli citizens who see these prisoners as terrorists responsible for murder.

This show of good faith has not appeased settlement concerns. Palestine has threatened legal action against Israel.

[pullquote]“I hope our appearance here today will go a long way to restore equality and fairness regarding Israel in Geneva.”[/pullquote]

Palestinian Foreign Minister Riad Maliki said, “Israel is seeking to destroy the two-state solution and undermine any effort to ensure the success of the peace negotiations.”

Significant resolutions will have to be made sooner rather than later, in light of the recent Israeli attack on the Syrian coastal city of Latakia. An official from the Obama administration said the attack was an effort to stop the transportation of Russian-made missiles to Hezbollah insurgents. Syria has not confirmed who the attackers were, and Israel also remains silent on the incident. Israeli officials have said in the past that they would respond if they thought military weapons were being transferred to military groups in that region.

The Swiss peace conference or Geneva 2, as its being called, seems to be the latest strategy in peace talks. It is here that members of the international community hope Syrian rebels and the Syrian regime will hammer out a deal to end the conflict, but that is unlikely to happen with some rebels calling the conference an act of treason.

Israel’s controversial return to the UN forum has put it back into the good graces of some international states, but also buried it further into diplomatic chaos.

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