Analysis of tripartite developments at the international level regarding Palestine

The recognition of the State of Palestine by three European countries, with others likely to follow, is a positive development. We should thank these countries for their stance. However, I do not believe this position will lead to immediate changes.

Spain's Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez is applauded by MPs after delivering a speech to announce that Spain will recognise Palestine as a state on May 28 at the Congress of Deputies in Madrid on May 22, 2024.
Thomas COEX / AFP
Spain's Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez is applauded by MPs after delivering a speech to announce that Spain will recognise Palestine as a state on May 28 at the Congress of Deputies in Madrid on May 22, 2024.

Analysis of tripartite developments at the international level regarding Palestine

The purpose of this article is to examine international developments related to the Palestinian question, their significance, impacts, and the direction they are heading.

These developments can be categorised into three areas: First, the membership of the State of Palestine in the United Nations and its alternatives. Second, international judicial institutions, which are the International Court of Justice (ICJ), a UN body specialising in adjudicating disputes between countries and issuing legal opinions upon request by another UN organs, and the International Criminal Court (ICC), an independent entity focused on prosecuting war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide when national courts are unwilling or unable to do so. Third, unilateral recognition of the State of Palestine by various countries adds to the growing number of nations recognising Palestine.

To begin, we must evaluate official Palestinian actions and their success or failure in influencing and directing these developments. Based on direct personal experience, I can assert that the sole decision-maker in the Palestinian Authority (PA) does not perceive significant benefits in international actions and has recently concentrated on the United Nations as a means to achieve some political victories. This change suggests the absence of a clear and consistent strategic plan for international engagement, leading to an unsustainable and sometimes illogical approach.

UN membership

A significant step in Palestinian engagement with the United Nations began in 2011 with the submission of an application for full membership of the State of Palestine to the Security Council. This move, however, was made without a genuine intention to push for a vote, leading to a missed opportunity to take the issue to the General Assembly, which had considerable political momentum at the time. Consequently, the Security Council did not take any action, citing the lack of the necessary nine votes.

The following year, the focus shifted to the General Assembly, which passed a resolution referred to by Palestinians as the "non-member state resolution." This resolution introduced the unusual term "non-member observer state," effectively creating a new legal category. Despite its peculiar wording, the decision allowed Palestine to join the International Criminal Court and eventually led to the Palestinian flag being raised at the United Nations alongside those of member states.

More problematic were the attempts to join international treaties and organisations. The intention here was to assert the existence of the State of Palestine, but the approach was flawed due to a failure to distinguish between treaties and international organisations.

Membership in the latter requires a vote from the member states of each organisation. Additionally, it appears that the Palestinian Authority (PA) reached an implicit understanding with the United States not to attempt to join certain organisations that Washington considers important, such as the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO).

Israel's war of annihilation in Gaza triggered the change. Countries friendly to Israel began to question its crimes.

Joining treaties and agreements occurred arbitrarily, often without thorough study or even reading the treaties and without ratification by any legislative body. Additionally, these treaties were not reconciled with local laws. This haphazard approach created legal problems rather than supporting the issue of statehood, and these problems will persist until the Palestinian side finds a solution.

Despite claims by some officials, Palestine's position at the United Nations has deteriorated after what was once a golden phase. Israel has made previously unimaginable progress, even attempting to run for a Security Council seat through the group of western countries.

This would have been highly problematic given Israel's refusal to comply with Council decisions. Fortunately, this attempt failed when Germany also sought membership from the same group, leading to Israel's defeat in the General Assembly elections.

Israel has also made strides in reducing support for Palestinian resolutions. It managed to alter the voting patterns in the General Assembly, with some European countries voting against Palestinian resolutions for the first time since 1982 and traditionally supportive countries like India abstaining. Even some Islamic countries shifted their positions.

The only factor prevented a complete collapse of support in the Assembly was the unified positive vote of the Arab countries. Recently, however, Israel's gains have reversed, and the situation has nearly returned to the status of the golden period.

Israeli madness

How did this happen? Firstly, no credit should be given to the ruling class in Ramallah, which has deteriorated in a way that may have even harmed international developments. This class still lacks a strategy and vision.

Instead, it was the Israeli war of annihilation against the Palestinian people in the Gaza Strip and the apparent madness of the Prime Minister and his government that triggered change. Many countries, including some friendly to Israel, began to question the wisdom of Israeli policies and crimes. Subsequently, they started to distance themselves from Israel and blame its actions, with some even condemning Israeli policies. The shift was a result of global support for Palestinian suffering and sacrifices, both from grassroots movements and, to some extent, governments.

Pro-Palestinian demonstrators gather in front of the White House during the "March on Washington for Gaza" in Washington, DC, on January 13, 2024.

Read more: Palestinians must capitalise on the growing global support for their cause

These international developments accelerated in a manner that sometimes seemed interconnected despite the unchanged policies of the official Palestinian leadership. This disconnection between the actions of the official authority and the parties confronting Israel militarily further complicated the situation.

Official Palestinian action regarding these developments began when the PA officially requested a vote on the membership application submitted to the Security Council. This time, the resolution draft received more than the necessary nine votes, but it was ultimately blocked by a US veto.

This situation raises an important question: do the concerned parties lack the necessary knowledge about the likely outcome? One thing is certain: The American position will not change, not only due to the administration's bias toward Israel but also because of a law that prevents the United States from funding international institutions that grant Palestine full membership.

This law affects about a third of the United Nations budget, which could threaten the very existence of the UN. Moreover, it's important to note that the United Nations does not recognise states, and full membership for Palestine, despite its significance, is not equivalent to recognition by individual states.

Afterwards, the Palestinian mission to the United Nations turned to the General Assembly. Initially, the draft resolution submitted by the PA mission included an important paragraph granting Palestine the same rights as member states in the General Assembly. This provision would have exceeded what was granted to South Africa during the apartheid regime. Unfortunately, this text was later retracted and replaced by an annexe specifying a few additional rights for Palestine, similar to what occurred in 1997.

Thus, the decision shifted from one related to membership to merely raising the level of representation despite its importance. Currently, it appears there are no plans for further initiatives for Palestine at the United Nations. I believe that this approach is entirely wrong. What is needed is the courage to take measures against Israel, starting with its rude UN representative, who consistently exceeds all limits.

Furthermore, given Israel's actions against UNRWA, one of the United Nations agencies, it is conceivable to push for Israel's expulsion from the United Nations, or at the very least, from the General Assembly.

Given Israel's actions against UNRWA, it is conceivable to push for Israel's expulsion from the United Nations.

Legal institutions

The second category is international legal institutions. The most prominent development here is South Africa's complaint against Israel under the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide (GPPCG), accusing Tel Aviv of committing genocide.

South Africa has returned to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) several times to request additional temporary measures. Unfortunately, Palestinian parties were not strongly involved in this effort, and the Arab contribution was also minimal or absent.

The Palestinian side had already approached the ICJ to request a legal advisory opinion from the General Assembly on the legality of the continued occupation. Frankly, I do not fully understand the rationale behind this move, especially given the Palestinian side's complete neglect of the excellent opinion issued by the Court in 2004 against the wall and many illegal Israeli policies.

Another significant development was the request by the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) to issue arrest warrants for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Defence Minister Yoav Gallant, Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh, Hamas leader in Gaza Yahya Sinwar, and the Commander-in-Chief of its forces, Mohammed Deif.

Albeit unexpectedly, the Prosector took several smart steps, including forming a legal committee in January to investigate the matter. The six-member committee unanimously agreed on the court's jurisdiction and found reasonable evidence to charge these individuals with committing war crimes and crimes against humanity.

This development caused a legal earthquake in Israel. The main issue is that the Israeli regime, both politically and militarily, believes it is above the law and enjoys immunity. Suddenly, this regime discovered it was subject to the law and could be held accountable. I estimate that the current support for Netanyahu against the Prosector will weaken, and we will see a real uprising against him, accusing him of causing many misfortunes for Israel. Many will feel that they can be punished.

Erik Flaaris Johansen / AFP
Norway's Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Store (R) next to Norwegian Foreign Minister Espen Barth Eide, announces during a press conference to recognise Palestine as an independent state from 28 May, in Oslo, on May 22, 2024.

Individual recognition

The third category is the individual recognition of the State of Palestine by a group of mainly Western countries. First, it is important to note that several attempts were made to reach a collective position among the European Union countries regarding recognition, but these efforts were unsuccessful. This was likely due to the opposition of Germany and some Eastern European countries.

Typically, recognition involves a diplomatic exchange and often leads to economic or other agreements, which is not the case here. The issue stems from the fact that the United Nations initially divided Palestine into two states and granted membership to one while not the other. Therefore, recognising the states is linked to acknowledging the existence of both states, and recognition of the State of Palestine on the 1967 borders is part of the official policy of the recognising state.

The recognition of the State of Palestine by three European countries, with others likely to follow, is a positive development. We should thank these countries for their stance. However, I do not believe this position will lead to immediate changes. It may bring about change in the medium term by increasing pressure for full recognition or full membership in the United Nations, but this will take time.

While waiting for this, the official Palestinian authorities must stop claiming that these developments are the result of their efforts or that they signify appreciation for them. What has happened is entirely unrelated to the internal Palestinian situation and is instead driven by the Middle Eastern policies of the concerned countries.

Developments at the international level are complex, and this article is only a preliminary attempt to understand and clarify the situation.

**The article is a direct translation from Arabic***

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