Last Saturday, Israel was to have released a fourth and final group of Palestinian prisoners as part of its original nine-month-old negotiations agreement with the Palestinians. Israel did not release them. Instead, it tried to use the release as leverage to force the Palestinians to commit to negotiations beyond the original deadline of April 29th.
Israel's failure to release a final batch of Palestinian prisoners, scheduled for Saturday night, amounts to a violation of the terms of the original agreement reached between Israel and the Palestinians at the start of talks nine months ago, brokered by the United States, US officials have told their Israeli counterparts.JPost
Following the breach, Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas said he would now seek to strengthen Palestine's position internationally, while continuing to negotiate until the required end date: April 29th.
In response to this crisis, Secretary Kerry put a plan together meant to keep the negotiations going. Oddly on offer was the release of Jonathan Pollard, the American who was sentenced to life for spying for Israel. Israel has long sought his release. The Palestinians were offered the release of the prisoners which had already been agreed to as well as 400 others, many of them women and children. The plan also calls for another partial freeze of settlement building. It seems more a plan to keep Israel at the table, since Palestine has agreed to continue talking until the agreed upon deadline.
Then, on Tuesday, Israel announced 700 tenders beyond the green line. That evening, Abbas signed the applications to join international conventions and treaties, as he said he would if Israel were to renege on the agreement.
What does it mean?
These are the international treaties Palestine has asked to join (from Haaretz):
■ Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, adopted by the UN General Assembly in 1979
■ International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, adopted by the UN General Assembly in 1966
■ International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, adopted by the UN General Assembly in 1966
■ Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, adopted by the UN General Assembly in 2006
■ International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, adopted by the UN General Assembly in 1965
■ United Nations Convention Against Torture, adopted by the UN General Assembly in 1984
■ United Nations Convention Against Corruption, adopted by the UN General Assembly in 2003
■ UN Genocide Convention, adopted by the UN General Assembly in 1948
■ Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid, adopted by the UN General Assembly in 1974
■ Convention on the Rights of the Child, adopted by the UN General Assembly in 1989
■ Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War (Fourth Geneva Convention)
■ Convention with Respect to the Laws and Customs of War on Land (Hague II)
■ Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties
■ Vienna Convention on Consular Relations
■ Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations
Nine are UN conventions, including international treaties against torture, corruption and genocide. The Convention on the Rights of the Child is relevant, with between 500 and 700 Palestinian children arrested by Israel each year. The Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War is also relevant, with the rate of settler attacks on Palestinians having quadrupled in eight years.
Ashraf Khatib, a communications adviser for the PLO’s Negotiations Affairs Department, explains further:
These treaties and conventions will help to protect and promote basic rights of the Palestinian people and will enable the State of Palestine to be a responsible actor on the international stage. These treaties are vital to continued Palestinian institutional building, good governance and the upholding of human rights, all of which form the basis for an independent and sovereign State of Palestine. Palestine will pursue this non-violent track, including all possible diplomatic venues, in a way which serves the best interests of its people and the cause of a just peace.As you can also see from the list, none of these are UN organizations, or the International Criminal Court. The Palestinians had agreed not to go to the ICC during these negotiations. It seems to be the thing Israel and the US fear the most. Beyond that explanation, there is the fact that the US cannot veto Palestine's accession to these treaties and conventions, as it vetoed the UN Security Council resolution condemning Israeli settlements in February of 2011. Nor can the US defund any of these, as it defunded UNESCO when that body accepted Palestine's application in October of 2011. So these are treaties and conventions that the US and Israel cannot block Palestine from joining.
Good steps for Palestine. It is reinforcing its rights without endangering funding for UN agencies, and gaining political momentum internationally. And it's all being done peacefully. When the Palestinians go the the ICC, they will be ready.