Palestine Ups The Pressure

Noah Gordon sums up the big news this week:

The Palestinian Authority’s President Mahmoud Abbas signed the papers to join the International Criminal Court a day after it was denied statehood by the UN’s Security Council. The provocative move could draw sanctions from Israel and the United States, as well as expose the Palestinian territories and Israel to an international investigation of war crimes.

Jessica Schulberg’s take on the implications:

Precedent suggests that Palestine’s ascension to the ICC will amount to little more than a symbolic display of sovereignty.

As The Washington Post editorial board noted, the ICC accused Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir of genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes in 2009. Yet, he continues to rule the country and travel freely. Since its inception in 2002, the ICC has brought a total of 21 cases in eight countries, resulting in only two convictions. Even if the ICC does decide to indict specific Israelis for war crimes, Israel is not party to the Rome Statute and could refuse to surrender its citizens or evidence for trials.

At this point, Palestine had little to lose by joining the court. It comes at a time when international support for Palestinian sovereignty is expanding, as is disillusionment with Israel’s continued occupation. While this decision is in direct defiance of the U.S. (the biggest donor to the United Nations Palestinian Relief Agency), the Americans are unlikely to pull funding.

Keating notes how close the vote was for Palestinian statehood:

This latest Security Council vote was hardly an unambiguous victory for Israel. The U.S. and Australia were the only countries to vote against the resolution. (Australia abstained on the 2012 Assembly vote, but has been more vocally pro-Israel since the election of Prime Minister Tony Abbott last year.) Three of the five permanent members—Russia, China, and France—voted for it. Britain, whose parliament passed a non-binding resolution in support of Palestinian statehood in October, abstained. None of the four EU countries on the council supported Israel’s position (Luxembourg voted for the resolution, and Lithuania abstained), reflecting growing impatience in Europe with Netanyahu’s government. …

Going forward, if the composition of the council is slightly different or the U.S. is slightly less enthusiastic about lobbying on Israel’s behalf, things could easily go very differently and Israel and its primary backer could find themselves even more isolated.

Bernard Avishai thinks Secretary Kerry is misreading the situation over there:

It turned out that Kerry did not have to veto the first resolution, though Abbas may try to reintroduce it in January, when the composition of the Security Council will change to his advantage. Kerry is trying to avoid “doing stupid stuff,” as Obama has often put it. If the nuclear negotiations with Iran finally produce an agreement this winter—even one that opens the country to permanent inspections and greater economic integration—Netanyahu and the Republican Congress can be expected to attack it. Why provide them with more reasons to accuse the Obama Administration of being unfriendly to Israel?

At the same time, Kerry knows that doing nothing to quell the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians may not be shrewd. Jerusalem witnessed escalating acts of violence this year, some with religious overtones, and Kerry saw how the collapse of his mediation effort last spring contributed to the eruption of war in Gaza. So Kerry is asking for a three-month grace period on the second, more significant resolution, in which all sides sweat out the Israeli election results with him.

Gershon Baskin supports the PA’s resolution, for the most part:

My sense is that the Palestinians put down a draft to place a benchmark of their baseline positions – look at what we are demanding. We (the Palestinians) want the world to know that our demands are such and such and that they are reasonable. That is a kind of starting point for the Palestinians, and if their international diplomatic strategy continues, members of the Security Council sympathetic to the Palestinian side may now push for some amendments to that resolution.

For the most part, the resolution is quite good and I see it as a call to the international community to preserve the viability of the two-state solution. I see this as a call to save the State of Israel from the occupation and to enable Israel to break free from its hold over millions of Palestinians. It is most unfortunate that the Palestinians did not wait to bring the draft to a vote, at least until after Israeli elections.