Israel returns to UN's human rights panel, but under protest over 'unfair' treatment

Israel's foreign ministry said the country will appear this week in Geneva at a meeting of the United Nations Human Rights Council, despite claims by the country that it has been unfairly targeted for human rights abuses.

Sunday's announcement effectively ends Israel's shunning of the international body. Last March, Israel cut working relations with the council over its intention to launch an investigation into Jewish West Bank settlements.

At the time, Israel accused the council of an anti-Israel bias because of what it says is its disproportionate focus on Israeli policy toward the Palestinians.

Since its creation in 2006, the Geneva-based council has focused heavily on alleged abuses by Israel. After the United States joined in 2009, it began addressing other human rights problems as well.

Israel has had uneasy relations with the U.N. for decades. The decision to rejoin the council reportedly comes amid Western pressure.

All UN member states, including those with egregious human rights records, like Iran and Syria, have participated in the first round of the Universal Periodic Review. The Jerusalem Post reports that Israel would have become the first country to boycott the procedures had it decided not to appear at the hearing.

While Israel has made the decision to rejoin, Israeli officials have expressed skepticism they will be treated fairly by the council.

"We will attend the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) in Geneva," an Israeli official reportedly said Sunday. "It’ll still be an unfair Council, but we’ll do our part."

"All countries need to open themselves to scrutiny, and sunlight is always the best disinfectant when applied with impartiality, equality and universality," Hillel Neuer, executive director of UN Watch, said in a statement. "Now is the time for the Council to show good faith on its part by heeding the calls of UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, and his predecessor Kofi Annan, to both remove the selective agenda item on Israel -- the only provision of its kind focusing on a specific country -- and to end the exclusion of Israel from any of the Council's five regional groups.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.