Palestinian Approaches to International Organizations

The International Criminal Court

Palestinian officials formally submitted documents to join the International Criminal Court (ICC) on January 2, 2015, following the defeat of a UN Security Council resolution that called for a one-year timeframe for negotiations between Israel and Palestinians and an end to the occupation by 2017.

We believe that the Palestinians have the right to join international organizations and institutions including the ICC. We also understand their frustration at the ongoing occupation and the lack of a path to ending it. Nonetheless, we regard this move as unhelpful – setting off a spiral of counterproductive actions and leaving the Palestinian people no closer to freedom and self-determination.

Some say this move, in and of itself, is a game-changer that destroys chances for peace. We disagree, regarding it as largely symbolic and unlikely to substantially change the situation on the ground. It neither brings a Palestinian state any closer, nor is it likely to result in the imminent detention or punishment of Israeli citizens. Based on the ICC’s record (only 21 indictments and two convictions in 12 years of existence), the court is likely to move slowly and cautiously in deciding whether to get involved at all.

We continue to regard developments such as these as the natural consequence of the lack of positive movement toward a negotiated agreement to end the conflict. Those opposed to this course of action by the Palestinians bear the burden of defining an alternate path that leads to that goal.

We urge the United States to exercise leadership now by rallying the international community around a consensus position on the conflict’s resolution, including detailed parameters for a future peace agreement. These parameters could form the basis of a new Security Council resolution which would garner overwhelming support.

Without action, we risk an ever-deeper spiral of reinforcing negative moves. Israel has already announced it will freeze tax revenues it collects on behalf of the Palestinian Authority. The US Congress could soon consider freezing aid to the PA. Such steps are counter-productive and self-defeating and will only end up hurting both Palestinians and Israelis.

Responsible leaders must act to stop this cycle now. And leaders on both sides must avoid further steps that sharpen tensions or deepen mistrust.

United Nations Membership via the Security Council

J Street supported the United States’ September 2011 decision that it would veto the Palestinian application for United Nations’ membership, should the matter come to a vote in the UN Security Council. In a position paper and in an open letter to the American Jewish community, J Street laid out its case for why it is critical that a Palestinian state be established in the context of a two-state agreement, as opposed to by UN declaration.

Non-Member Observer State Status via the General Assembly

J Street neither supported nor opposed the November 2012 passage by the United Nations General Assembly of a resolution making Palestine a non-member state observer at the UN. The resolution actually affirmed Israel’s right to exist and endorsed a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict within the parameters J Street believes are urgently needed for Israel to survive as a secure, democratic, Jewish homeland – two states for two peoples, with Borders based on the pre-1967 lines with agreed swaps.

Opposition to Retaliation for Palestinian moves at the United Nations

J Street actively opposes efforts to punish President Abbas, the PLO or the Palestinian Authority for its approaches to the United Nations. We will also oppose any suggestion of closing the PLO mission in Washington. We should be looking for ways to encourage and deepen the chances of diplomacy, not for ways to cut it off.

Those chances will be seriously damaged if either Israel or the US Congress retaliates by cutting funding to the Palestinian Authority. Such funding cuts could lead to the collapse of the PA and certainly jeopardize the important progress, including in security cooperation, made in recent years by President Abbas. See J Street’s policy on Palestinian Aid.

We are very concerned about the continuing bias against Israel that surfaces in international fora. At the same time, we reject the notion that approaching the UN for enhanced status is an attempt to delegitimize Israel. Bringing the question of statehood to the General Assembly is a peaceful, non-violent move within the legal rights of the Palestinians– in stark contrast to the actions of Hamas, Islamic Jihad and other terror organizations.

We urge those concerned about Palestinian moves at the UN that their time and energy might be better spent focusing on the existential threat to Israel’s Security and character that is posed by the lack of a two-state solution to the conflict.

Reinstituting & Maintaining US Contributions to UNESCO, other UN Institutions

J Street believes Congress should amend US law to preserve American contributions to the United Nations Economic, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) halted by provisions of existing law prohibiting such funding following UNESCO member states’ October 2011 decision to grant the Palestinians full membership.

Failure to avert American defunding and disengagement from UNESCO, which the United States rejoined under President George W. Bush in 2003, has dealt a painful blow to US influence and standing in the world. In addition to undermining our own national interests, it has also deprive Israel’s most vocal and powerful advocate in a key UN organ of its vote.

The United States is UNESCO’s largest donor, contributing nearly a quarter of its annual budget. Without American support, UNESCO’s work in the areas of promoting development, expanding educational opportunities and preserving cultural heritage around the globe has been slashed. UNESCO operates overseas programs that the American pro-Israel community has long championed in the areas of literacy, science, clean water, education and equal treatment for girls and young women.

The 1990 and 1994 laws that operate to restrict US contributions to UNESCO would also prohibit American funding for any UN organ which grants Palestinians full membership status, including the World Intellectual Property Organization, the International Civil Aviation Organization, and the International Atomic Energy Agency.

American disengagement from UNESCO is just the first of many costly retreats this terrible law has forced the United States to make. If Congress does not act, we could soon find ourselves without a voice at UN-affiliated agencies of vital importance to American jobs, safety and security.