Palestine’s Abbas finally says will Go to UN over Israeli Squatters

(By Juan Cole)

Palestine president Mahmoud Abbas on Tuesday signed a some 15 international treaties and UN legal instruments, including the Geneva Conventions, in preparation for going to the International Criminal Court over Israel’s illegal flooding of hundreds of thousands of Israeli squatters into the West Bank. These squatters have for the most part never paid Palestinians for the land on which they build their homes. They completely exclude Palestinians from their colonies on Palestinian land. Often they prevent Palestinian farmers from harvesting their crops near the settlements. They commit vandalism against Palestinian property and sometimes just shoot down Palestinian civilians. Over time, they aim to make an Palestinian state impossible by turning it prospective territory into Swiss cheese.

I wrote last month,

“In an important speech carried in Arabic by WAFA on March 12, Mahmoud Abbas explained that his commitment to the negotiations was time-bound, for a nine-month period, while Kerry tried to hammer out an agreement, especially on security and borders. Quotes below are from a USG translation carried by BBC Monitoring.

Abbas said that there was another negotiating track, completely distinct from the first, having to do with the Palestinian request that Israel release 104 prisoners in 4 groups. These prisoners had been arrested before 1993, i.e. before the Oslo Peace Accord. Basically he was pledging, he said, to forgo any resort to the International Criminal Court as a newly minted non-member observer state at the United Nations, for nine months if Israel would release these prisoners. This second track had, he said, nothing whatsoever to do with the first. That is, Israel was just buying time for its illegal settlement of Occupied Palestinian land by releasing the prisoners.”

The Israelis had pledged to release over 100 prisoners, but balked at letting the last group of 25 or so go unless Abbas agreed to extend negotiations past the deadline of April 29. These were prisoners jailed before the 1993 Oslo peace accords (on all the provisions of which Israel has by now reneged). It is not clear why the PLO had been willing to forgo the powerful tool of going to UN institutions for the release of 125 prisoners (Israel holds thousands).

The Palestinians maintain that the prisoner release is completely unrelated to the final status negotiations over the shape of a Palestinian state, and that the quid pro quo there was that they had put off going to the UN, not that they were involved in negotiations. So when the Israelis declined to release the last group on schedule, the Palestinians signed the UN instruments and treaties that would strengthen their hand when and if they take their case to the International Criminal Court. They are also joining more UN agencies and committees, something both Israel and the US have opposed, since they don’t want Palestine recognized as a state by the international community before Israel itself can set the terms for such a state.

The ICC was established by the 2002 Rome Statute, so that previous generations of Palestinians would not have been able to resort to it. Even then, it could only take up cases of member nations, and since Israel had not signed the treaty and Palestine was not a member state, the ICC could not consider the case of Palestine until recently. Another way a non-member state can be taken to the ICC is if the UN Security Council forwards a case to it. But the US screws over the Palestinians by consistently vetoing any UNSC ruling against Israel.

When the United Nations General Assembly voted in 2012 to admit Palestine as a non-member UN observer state (the same status as the Vatican enjoys), however, it opened the door for Palestine to take Israel’s squatting policy to the ICC. Palestine as an observer state can sign the Rome Statute and can initiate a case against Israel. Previous to 2012, Palestinians had no standing before the court since they were not recognized as a state at all.

The Palestinian leadership is said to have unanimously backed Abbas in taking this step.

Abbas said, “We do not want to use this right against anyone, and do not want a confrontation with America. For we have an excellent relationship with it.” He praised Secretary of State John Kerry for his energetic diplomacy on the issue.

“We just could find no other path forward.” Given Israeli footdragging on the prisoner release, Abbas said, he was going to join UN organizations and agencies. He had agreed to put that off for 9 months, but that period has come to a close.

Palestine has gained nothing from the negotiations, since Israel has increased the size of the settlements and announced thousands of new housing units on Palestinian land since August when they began. In essence, Israel has been grabbing up the very territory over which the negotiations are being held– sort of like if you’re talking with friend how to share a piece of cake when suddenly he starts eating it up.


Related video:

PBS Newshour: “U.S.-led Mideast peace negotiations hit new hurdle”

28 Responses

  1. About time. International Court rulings will force more organizations to join the BDS movement; it will be the economics that finally puts sufficient internal pressure on the Israeli government to overcome theocratic delusions.

    • Joseph,

      Time for you to put up or stfu.

      Please start boycotting the products and services of Israeli owned companies.

      Please start boycotting the products and services of International companies doing business with and investing in Israel.

      Thank you.

    • Negotiating with the Israeli right wing is pretty much the same as negotiating with Republicans. For each concession you make, they express a willingness for you to make more concessions. Any request for them to make concessions in return is treated with scorn and disbelief.

  2. It is about time Abbas and the Palestinians, realized that Israel was once again scamming them, stalling them, and trying to give them the short end of the stick. They gave Israel too much of time, and were too tolerant towards the endless announcements of more illegal settlements, from the time these peace talks were started. The US has once again shown it is either naive where the devious machinations of Israel are concerned, or simply pretending it cannot get it. Now that Abbas has given enough time for US brokered peace talks, and realizes Israel will never, ever, keep it’s word, he must change their course of action, and go directly to the ICC, where in reality is where they will get some justice. They should also bid for full statehood, so that they will be able to defend themselves against evil forces.

  3. Israel has never negitiated honestlyn with the Palestinians & never will. It can always rely on the support of the “honest broker”. Abbas knows this. Apparently he believes that by kissing the Imperial ring (currently on J. Kerry’s finger), he’ll get some leverage. Either he’s a fool, or he’s hoping to generate sympathy at the UN. As lomg as the US gives unconditional suppoet to Israel, he’ll get nothing but more smoke. The people of Palestine will continue to suffer. Their “leaders” do them no good at all.

  4. “It is not clear why the PLO had been willing to forgo the powerful tool of going to UN institutions for the release of 125 prisoners (Israel holds thousands).”

    From my experience it is eminently clear. The men up for release are all long-term prisoners who, as anyone with experience in Palestine knows, hold a very special place in the hearts of Palestinians — their portraits are painted all around the West Bank. In many ways, I think, the West is confused as to what Palestinians actually want. From my time in Ramallah, prisoner releases and the right of return are two of the most important goals, more so even than an independent Palestine.

  5. Good for Abbas and the Palestinians! We can hope that, by acting like a state, Palestine will further its goal to be treated like a state.

    Hopefully, this will also throw a wrench into the US’s planned release of spy/traitor Jon Pollard.

  6. I think it’s reasonable to infer that the reason the P.A. delayed this move is two-fold. First, there is the possibility that any action they file against Israel will be countered by filings against P.A. leaders. But second, and more importantly, I suspect that they were told that this action would undermine the peace process, and were strongly urged (if not instructed) not to take action by some or all of the “Quartet”.

  7. “US ‘peace process’ charade plays on: The United States is scrambling to rescue a framework agreement between the Israeli government and the Palestinian Authority, but Washington likely knows its efforts are doomed by the right-wing majority in Israel’s ruling coalition. By pursuing talks that achieve little but advance Israeli military objectives, the Obama administration continues a pattern repeated since its launch by Henry Kissinger.” By Ramzy Baroud – link to

  8. The problem with the “peace talks” is that the two sides expect quite different outcomes from them. The Palestinians are hoping that the talks would result in an end to the Israeli occupation and the creation of some form of Palestinian state on a small portion of historical Palestine. For the Israelis, the process is an end in itself. The “peace talks” are as long as a piece of string and so far they have continued for decades without any tangible outcome. They see no urgency for putting an end to the conflict because they believe that they can “manage” the conflict, and in time they can expand their control over all the occupied territories. Therefore, they have no intention of accepting the creation of a Palestinian state.

    Past experience has shown that due to domestic politics no US administration is willing or able to put real pressure on Israel to reach an equitable deal with the Palestinians. Therefore, it is disingenuous for any US official to pretend to act as an honest broker in the conflict. Going through the UN or the ICC route may not succeed, mainly due to US influence and her tendency to veto any resolution that may be against Israeli interest, but it is the only option that the Palestinians have and it is worth a try. The least it can do is to force other states to take their case more seriously.

    On the issue of Jonathan Pollard that the report brings up, he is a US national who was convicted of passing some very important classified information to a foreign government. I am surprised that more Americans are not outraged that Israel even demands his release as a part of a deal to continue talking to Palestinians.

    • The ‘deal’ to keep the talks going supposedly specifies that Israel will continue building in E. Jerusalem. Clearly Netanahu knows he won the integration of Israeli settlements in the W. Bank, including Ariel. He might pull out of the rest of the W. Bank but I is signaling that he’ll fight to the end to keep Jerusalem.

    • Jonathan Pollard, a Stanford-educated former naval intelligence analyst, has served over 28 years in federal custody and is slated to be released next year anyway.

      While there are those that rightfully opine that releasing Pollard as part of a Mideast peace process agreement is repugnant, the fact of the matter is that he has little time left in confinement and his value as a bargaining chip in the peace process dwindles as he nears the end of his sentence and imprisonment.

      The Pollard case has often been characterized as Israel spying on an ally, when in fact Israel has not only ignored demands to return voluminous classified files Pollard conveyed but will not account as to their whereabouts, giving rise to speculation that Israel may have sold such documents to an enemy state.

  9. It’s about time. Isreal is completely unreliable as a peace partner and in fact opposes peace. It is not interested in peace. Why the US should consider Israel an ally is beyond belief. The US should end any support of Israel and let it see for itself how well its attitude toward the world holds up. There may be people of peace in Israel but until they manage to throw out the current government and keep any others like it out of power they are without doubt headed toward disintegration. Israel on its current course is headed directly toward its own self induced end.

    • “Why the US should consider Israel an ally is beyond belief.”

      Follow the bribes in the form of campaign finance donations and votes.

  10. The framing of the “peace talks” as a negotiation with “give and take” by each side is wrong. The Palestinians have little left to give and Israel will just take it when they are ready. The past 66 years have taught that hard lesson.

    Consider the similar negotiations to end Apartheid in South Africa or segregation in the US. There was no “give and take” the only thing to be negotiated was the process whereby those horrible systems were dismantled. Likewise there can be no such negotiation with Israel: there can only be a negotiation on how to transition Israel into becoming a civil society. They must give up their Apartheid and their segregation. We should not give cover for this charade.

  11. Inconceivable as it may be, can it be possible that the Obama administration and others before it have failed to comprehend they are being jerked around by Israel’s right wing and its lobby and exposing the US to ridicule? The same goes for Congress. Why is Jonathan Pollard in prison for betraying the US when our top-ranking politicians go free for something similar by different means?

  12. Just to point out that there is a fundamental disconnect between how the Israelis view these negotiations, and how the Palestinians view it.

    The Palestinians insist that they are ALREADY a state. That part of it is A Done Deal and, furthermore, that is something that Israel (who has only ever been the “occupying power”, it has never been the “sovereign power”) has no say in.

    So for the Palestinians the negotiations are being held between two states: one who is “occupying”, and the other which is “occupied”, and the negotiations are entirely about what amount of extortion the state of Israel can strong-arm out of the state of Palestine as the “price” to be paid for ending this endless occupation.

    Israel sees it very differently: it insists that there is no such thing as the “state of Palestine” and, furthermore, Israel’s permission must be obtained before such a state can come into being.

    So for the Israelis the negotiations are between an “overlord” and his “vassals”, and what is being negotiated over is the price those vassals must pay their liege lord before he will magnanimously grant them freedom from their serfdom.

    Israel is, axiomatically, quite wrong: even if Palestine **ISN’T** a state then it still remains true that the Palestinians don’t need Israel’s “permission” to become a state.

    Israel simply **isn’t** their sovereign – and never was – and therefore Israel’s “permission” isn’t needed.

    Israel has to agree to end the occupation – it is the occupying power, after all – but it does not possess the authority to deny them statehood, precisely because Israel Is Not Their Sovereign.

    • Dear JohnBoy, Has it mattered how Palestine has viewed its status? Not much. What matters is how international law and hence the international community views its status. To date it has not been recognized as a state. BDS sanctions will become much more effective once Palestine is internationally recognized as a state.

      • Joseph: “Has it mattered how Palestine has viewed its status?”

        Not during this farcical “US-mediated peace process”, no.

        But that’s the entire *point* of these endless negotiations i.e. by having the USA “mediate” in this dispute it is able to constrain the talks to a strictly “political” level, without allowing any discussion of the actual “legal” entitlements of the two sides.

        Joseph: “What matters is how international law and hence the international community views its status. ”

        And I agree, and the only way that the PLO can frame the conflict in those terms is to kiss off this entire “US-mediated peace process”, whose main purpose is to sideline any talk of int’l law.

        The USA must decry the very concept of int’l law as being “unhelpful”, and the only way it can do that is to “own” this “peace process” and, therefore, to claim the right to set the agenda.

        Joseph: “BDS sanctions will become much more effective once Palestine is internationally recognized as a state”

        It is already internationally recognized as a state.
        Indeed, it would be interesting to count up how many countries recognize “the state of Palestine” and compare it to the number of countries that recognize “the state of Israel”.

        There wouldn’t be very much in it…..

  13. The purported peace deal Kerry pursues is an illusion, given the long-standing and transparent Israeli agenda. But people believe what they (desperately) want to believe, so Kerry only redoubles his effort. Its a variation on hubris on his part that will at best lead to a sham success, but he’ll get his Nobel prize and a leg-up on Hillary for 2016, so he’s blinded to the realities.

    Part of what’s happened here is that Israel has maneuvered Abbas et al into sham negotiations since there was really nothing else they could do until the UN options became real. But its not an easy option to exercise. Israel can now say there can be no “negotiations” if they go that route: hence the Palestinians become the ones at fault, and the Israelis can quite pretending they’re sincere.


    Uncle Sucker can, and if history is any guide to the future, will, help “make the peace,” through concessions the Palestinians are incapable of making (or unwilling, take your pick). Thus we see “enlarging the pie,” with the Pollard release. Although a faux concession, it will help mollify AIPAC for its symbolism. What I have not seen mentioned, but which we should expect, is what else really substantive the US is going to have to cough-up. This is what this drama is really all about. Not that its going to make any long-term difference, as it will simply go for the purchase of more Israeli negotiating string. Drawing on the example of Camp David I, I’m holding on to my wallet.

  14. Fascinating article. But I have a quick request — could you correct the first sentence so it’s readable?

  15. It’s disgusting to see Susan Rice’s condemnation of Palestine for asserting the fundamental rights that all states possess, just to suck up to Israel. And knowing that she will certain veto any such measure that reaches the Security Council.

    I’m ashamed for my country.

    • The last time the Palestinians went to the UN to get a lesser recognition, Rice was quite vicious in what she said at that meeting, and I was embarrassed at her mean speech. What is absurd is, the Palestinians are legally and openly doing what they are entitled to do, since their occupier has no interests in recognizing their rights, and yet, Israel and the US seems sore, mad, and outraged, they dare do that without their permission.
      Israel has even threatened sanctions against the Palestinians, and one phone call from AIPAC and our spineless Congress will cut the aid Palestinians get from us.

  16. ‘It is not clear why the PLO had been willing to forgo the powerful tool of going to UN institutions for the release of 125 prisoners (Israel holds thousands).’

    For some reason, Netanyahu could either halt settlements or release the prisoners as a condition for restarting talks, and he chose the latter.

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