Obama Administration Urged to Ditch ‘Anti-Israel’ U.N. Human Rights Council

By | March 23, 2012 | 4:19 AM EDT

Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen at a committee hearing on Feb. 2, 2012. (CNSNews.com/Penny Starr)

(CNSNews.com) – The Obama administration should walk away from the U.N. Human Rights Council, House Foreign Affairs Committee chairman Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.) said Thursday after the body adopted a fresh batch of resolutions critical of Israel.

Wrapping up a month-long session in Geneva, the U.N.’s top human rights body passed one resolution condemning North Korea, two condemning Syria – and five condemning Israel. (Another resolution, relating to Burma, contained mildly critical elements.)

“Instead of running for re-election to the council, the U.S. should finally leave that rogues’ gallery and seek credible alternative forums to advance human rights,” Ros-Lehtinen said Thursday, after the HRC adopted the five Israel-related resolutions.

The council remained “as anti-Israel as ever,” she said.

“Any limited, tactical gains made by U.S. engagement at the council are outweighed by the harm done through granting legitimacy to the fundamentally illegitimate body,” Ros-Lehtinen argued. “The fact is that, with or without the U.S., the UNHRC remains dominated by rogue regimes who protect human rights abusers and target free democracies like Israel.”

One of the five Israel-related resolutions establishes a new international fact-finding mission into alleged violations relating to Israeli settlements in disputed territory – the third such mission targeting Israel since the HRC was established six years ago.

Israel announced Thursday night that it would not cooperate with the probe, and slammed the HRC.

“While all over the Middle East human rights are violated in an unprecedented scale, the HRC ridicules itself by dedicating its time and resources to establish a superfluous and extravagant body whose sole purpose is to satisfy the Palestinians’ whims and to harm future chances to reach an agreement through peaceful means,” the foreign ministry said in a statement.

The United States cast the only no vote in all five Israel-related resolutions passed on Thursday afternoon. Those resolutions passed by margins of 44-1, 46-1, 36-1, 29-1 and 33-1.

All five were introduced by Pakistan. Core sponsors were Arab states, Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) states, Cuba and “Palestine” (Although an observer entity, the U.N. permits the Palestinian Authority to co-sponsor resolutions). Syria’s envoy was among those who spoke in favor of the measures.

Israel’s delegate accused the council of “hypocrisy and double standards,” noting that some members had during the day emphasized the importance or impartiality and non-politicization – but then failed to apply those same ideals when it came to resolutions regarding Israel.

Thursday’s votes came three days after the U.S. envoy to the HRC urged it to end its disproportionate focus on Israel.

The tendency to give far greater attention to the Israeli-Palestinian issue than any other human rights situation around the world was at the core of the Bush administration’s decision to shun the HRC, neither joining or funding the council and eventually not even observing its meetings.

President Obama reversed that policy in 2009, since when it has highlighted its leadership at the HRC as a centerpiece of its broader engagement with the U.N.

The administration has pushed for some improvements at the council, but is ultimately stymied by in-built problems, such as a membership procedure that enables countries with poor human rights records to join – and then band together to promote certain issues and block others.

Three years into its participation, the HRC has only 21 free democracies among its 47 members, down from a high of 25 in 2006. It also retains only one country-specific permanent agenda item, dealing with Israel. This means that every time the HRC holds a session, Israel is on the agenda, no matter what other crises may be occurring anywhere else in the world.

The administration frequently and energetically criticizes these problem areas, but maintains that its membership and leadership is making a difference, citing for example the 2011 decision to appoint a “special rapporteur” to investigate abuses in Iran.

The administration announced a full year ago that it will stand for a second term in elections scheduled for May of this year.

Legislation authored by Ros-Lehtinen and co-sponsored by more than 140 other lawmakers seeks to change the way the U.N. is funded, shifting from the current “assessed” contribution procedure to a “voluntary” one, thus enabling the U.S. to direct funds to only those U.N. agencies and activities that it determines are well-run and in the U.S. national interest.

The bill also requires the U.S. to withhold from the U.N. a sum proportionate to the amount that would go towards funding the HRC.

U.S. taxpayers account for 22 percent of the U.N.’s regular budget, and more than 25 percent of its peacekeeping budget.