Israel minister accepts challenge from UN chief to sit in empty chair

Written by Staff Writer Editor’s Note — This story has been updated to add the comment made by Navi Pillay, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights A Cabinet minister from Israel has accepted a…

Israel minister accepts challenge from UN chief to sit in empty chair

Written by Staff Writer

Editor’s Note — This story has been updated to add the comment made by Navi Pillay, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights

A Cabinet minister from Israel has accepted a correction to an empty chair posted on his official photo after the controversy came to light on Monday.

Tourism Minister Yariv Levin’s photograph, on his official Twitter profile, showed an empty chair, with the words: “Due to access issue…” and “Nothing to see here.” The tweet was widely circulated online, prompting a number of comments, including from Navi Pillay, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.

“Disgusting. @UN_HumanRights Would welcome an apology from @IsraeliPM, but also from Minister for Tourism @rlern,” Pillay tweeted in response to the minister’s photo.

Later, Israel’s ambassador to the UN, Danny Danon, took to Twitter and addressed the criticism.

“There was a small technical problem with the picture and was promptly fixed,” he wrote. “In order to move @UN_HumanRights to my chair, I will personally do so. She will never hear the end of it.”

He also suggested Pillay apologize to Israel, which is on the UN Human Rights Council.

In a later statement, Danon added: “I thank @UN_HumanRights for coming to its senses and correcting the error of its ways. And on behalf of my good friend the US ambassador, I call on them to make the same correction publicly.”

Related: Israel says New Zealand breach of human rights

Showing him on Pillay’s seat, Danon’s caption read: “Knesset minister Yariv Levin joins the Special Rapporteur, Navi Pillay, at the Hague, Netherlands. We can all celebrate our rights and our privileges.”

The tourism minister, who has Parkinson’s disease, could not attend Monday’s United Nations Climate Change conference due to his disabilities, his office said.

Despite presenting a united front at the conference, leaders from Israel and the United States were also sharply critical of the UN’s decision to include Palestine on the UN Human Rights Council, but Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu avoided commenting on the question of whether he would be attending the UN Security Council meeting for which the prime minister is a member.

The move has been widely criticized by Jewish leaders and analysts because Palestine has not had full UN membership. Palestine’s application had been pending since 2011.

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