The president of the U.N.'s top rights body, Polish diplomat Remigiusz Henczel, declared Israel a no-show at a meeting in Geneva and then reconvened the 47-nation Human Rights Council to decide what to do.
Israel had asked Henczel in January to postpone the review but did not provide a public explanation.
"This is a rather unique step which has never happened in the past," said German U.N. Ambassador Hanns Heinrich Schumacher.
But after a debate, the council unanimously agreed to defer the review until its next session in October and November at the latest. It took also take it up earlier.
Henczel said the compromise would set a precedent for "how to deal with all cases of non-cooperation" in the future.
All U.N. nations are required to submit to Human Rights Council review every four years. The council's spokesman, Rolando Gomez, said once previously Haiti did not appear for its review but provided a reason.
Israel's absence comes as it is forming a new governing coalition following last week's parliamentary election.
U.S. diplomats have said the council is too focused on Israel. Israel, meanwhile, said last year that it would stop cooperating with the council because of its plans for a fact-finding mission on Israeli settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.
Diplomats from nations such as Egypt and Pakistan quickly pounced on the Israeli absence, and the opening it could provide for other countries that might want to bow out of a rights review.
The European Union called on Israel to "respond positively" by submitting to the review later this year.
Eileen Chamberlain Donahoe, the U.S. ambassador to the council, urged the body to agree to the unprecedented deferral in an effort to "find common ground and to protect" the review process.
Israel has gone through one review before in 2008, when many delegations demanded it recognize and respect Palestinians' right to self-determination and a homeland.
The Geneva-based council was set up in 2006 to replace a 60-year-old commission that was widely discredited as a forum dominated by nations with poor human rights records.