In a snub to the U.S-led Palestinian-Israeli peace efforts yesterday, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas signed letters of accession to 15 multilateral treaties and conventions. The move signals a resumption of the "Palestine 194" campaign, a process designed to gain the Palestinians recognition as the 'State of Palestine.'
The United States and Israel have sought to forestall this effort. In many ways, the diplomatic process launched by John Kerry last year was an effort to pre-empt it. The Israelis are concerned that the Palestinians will use their elevated status in the international arena to isolate Israel politically, if not economically. Washington is also concerned because the campaign will trigger existing laws that mandate a full cut in funding to any organization of the UN that grants membership to the PLO specifically (1990), or "any organization or group that does not have the internationally recognized attributes of statehood," more generally (1994).
The Palestinians gained "non-member observer state" status at the UN General Assembly in November 2012 and subsequently gained acceptance at the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). The U.S. cut funding to UNESCO as a result and Congress has maintained the ban on funding in the face of pressure from the Obama administration.
It is not immediately clear if the U.S. funds any of the conventions Abbas applied to yesterday. But, Congress may seek to deal with the matter in the near future. According to a PLO press release today, the list of conventions Abbas applied to include: The four Geneva conventions of 12 August 1949 and the first additional protocol; the Vienna Convention of Consular Relations; The Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Optional Protocol to the Convention of the Rights of the Child on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict; The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women; The Hague Convention (IV) respecting the Laws and Customs of War on Land and its Annex; The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities; The Vienna Convention of the Law of Treaties; the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination; the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment; the United Nations Convention Against Corruption; the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide; The International Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid; the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights; and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.
It can certainly be argued that some of the above conventions would provide the Palestinians with a better blueprint for governance. However, it is clear that Abbas, acting as the head of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), submitted these letters as a shot across the bow to the Israelis and U.S.-led diplomacy.
After a brief hiatus, the latest chapter in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict has resumed, marked again by diplomatic lawfare and unilateral maneuvers. Whether this prompts Israeli concessions or diplomatic reprisals remains to be seen.
Jonathan Schanzer is vice president for research at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.