Israel Working to Keep Palestinians Out of Interpol

Israel Working to Keep Palestinians Out of Interpol

Ramallah sees symbolic and practical benefits to joining organization

For the past few weeks, Israel and the United States have joined forces to lobby against the Palestinians being admitted to Interpol, the international policing organization. The group is currently meeting in China, and two potential new members, the Palestinian Authority, and Kosovo, have applied for admission.

“The Palestinians are not a country but they are trying to seek international recognition as a country,” Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Emmanuel Nachshon told The Media Line. “If they want to be a country, they should negotiate with us and not use international platforms to obtain status without us.”

“Palestine” became a non-member observer state at the United Nations in 2012, and since then the Palestinian Authority has tried to join as many international organizations as possible. Joining Interpol, which has 190 members and facilitates international police cooperation, would have both symbolic and practical significance for the Palestinian Authority, headed by Mahmoud Abbas.

“This is another step toward gradual recognition of Palestine as a state,” Ghassan al-Khatib, a professor of political science at Bir Zeit University and a former government spokesman told The Media Line. “Building a state is gradual and this would be an important step forward.”

There are also practical implications, he said. Palestinian criminals are able to operate across state lines with impunity, as Palestine is not party to extradition treaties. Many feel Abbas has worked hard to impose law and order in the West Bank – including allowing often controversial and unpopular coordination with Israeli security — and joining Interpol would provide the PA with new tools to enforce the law.

The Gaza Strip is controlled by the Islamist Hamas movement, which the US and Israel, along with much of the international community, see as a terrorist organization.Earlier this month, the Palestinian Authority lost a similar bid to join the World Tourism Organization, also opposed by Israel. But the protests this time are more vociferous because Interpol members share classified information that could aid terrorist groups – including a number of such organizations based in the Gaza Strip.

In addition, Israeli officials are concerned that the Palestinian Authority could use Interpol to issue international arrest warrants against both senior Israeli military officials and politicians, a threat often sounded by senior Palestinian officials, albeit to bring charges before the International Criminal Court in The Hague.

The chief of the Palestinian Civil Police Major General Hazem Atallah flew to Interpol headquarters in Lyon, France last month to meet Interpol Secretary General Jurgen Stock to plead the Palestinians’ case. The Palestinian police released a statement after that meeting quoting Stock as praising “the level that the Palestinian Civil Police has reached.”

Last year, Interpol rejected similar requests by the Palestinian Authority and Kosovo to join, after pressure from both Israel and Russia. Kosovo is also trying again, which could help Israel get what it wants. Russia is a strong ally of Serbia, and therefore opposes Kosovo’s joining Interpol, as it did last year.

If Interpol’s Executive Committee decided to postpone the membership decision for another year, it would need to bring that decision to a vote before the United Nations General Assembly. If it decides to bring the Palestinian request to a vote, a discussion would be held later this week, and the Palestinians would need to receive a two-thirds majority in order to be admitted.

The vote comes at a difficult time for Abbas. A recent poll conducted by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research (PSR) in both the West Bank and Gaza Strip has revealed that an overwhelming majority have lost faith in the PA president, with two-thirds of poll participants demanding his resignation.

That is up from 62 percent just three months ago.

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