The decision followed an assessment by the Foreign Ministry, and other Western governments, that it will be impossible to prevent the conference from turning into a festival of anti-Israeli attacks.
South Africa hosted the first Durban conference in the summer of 2001 under the auspices of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. It was titled "The World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance," but most of the discussions revolved around Israel's treatment of the Palestinians.
The United States and Israel responded by lowering the level of their diplomatic representation and eventually quit the conference, which culminated in a resolution equating Zionism and racism.
That conference also provided a framework for a global convention of non-governmental organizations, which became a platform for delegitimizing Israel.
For the past few months, a coalition of Israeli and global Jewish organizations, together with government representatives, tried to prepare a joint policy for the follow-up conference, which is scheduled to take place in early 2009 at a still undecided venue. Among other things, there were talks with the foreign ministries of other countries and pressure on NGOs to guarantee that no anti-Semitic resolutions would be passed.
However, it became clear there is little chance of effecting a change, among other reasons because the UN Human Rights Commission is chaired by Libya.
Livni said Sunday that Israel had intended to try and influence the discussion "from within," by taking an active role in international forums "and cooperating with those leaders and countries that don't have a hidden agenda, and who truly want to promote human rights. But that policy is sometimes misinterpreted, and there are mistakes one must not repeat. Therefore I wish to make clear that Israel will not participate and will not grant legitimacy to the UN conference on racism unless there is proof that the conference will not become a platform for more anti-Israeli and anti-Semitic activity."
Livni called on the international community to boycott the conference, or else risk "legitimizing hatred, extremism and anti-Semitism under the guise of combating racism."