October 01, 2017

Interpol approves Palestinian membership in blow to Israel

Clear message. The entrance hall of Interpol’s headquarters in Lyon in central France. (AP)

London - Interpol approved the Palestin­ian Authority’s candidacy to join the global police organisa­tion, a victory in the Palestin­ians’ push for membership in international institutions in the face of consistent Israeli opposition.

Israel lobbies hard against Pales­tinian candidacies to such bodies and claimed a win last year when the Palestinian bid to join Interpol was suspended.

The membership bid was part of Palestinian efforts to advance its goal of statehood.

“New member countries State of Palestine and Solomon Islands bring Interpol’s membership to 192,” Interpol said on its Twitter ac­count.

It did not give a detailed vote re­sult but candidacies require the ap­proval of a two-thirds majority of the countries present at the general assembly, excluding abstentions.

The Palestinians gained observer status at the United Nations in 2012 and since then have joined more than 50 international organisations and agreements, the Palestinian Foreign Ministry said. Among them are the International Criminal Court and the United Nations heritage body UNESCO.

Interpol, which has headquarters in Lyon, France, eases the exchange of information between police forces. It also issues “red notices” — non-binding notifications of arrest warrants.

Senior Palestinian official Jibril Rajoub had told Agence France- Presse (AFP) ahead of the vote that “we’re looking to be in all of the in­ternational institutions, including Interpol, as an organised state.”

“We are looking for the Palestin­ian state to be a positive contributor towards security and stability in the region and in the international com­munity,” he said.

Regarding the Israelis’ opposi­tion, he said: “They don’t want any progress towards a Palestinian state.”

“Israel does not want us to be in FIFA,” he said, referring to the world football governing body. “How would they want us to be in Interpol?”

Alan Baker, a former senior Israeli diplomat, called the Interpol bid “just a political PR move” on the part of the Palestinians.

“Because they’re not interested in negotiating (with Israel), they’re trying to achieve the end result, which is a state, through interna­tional organisations,” he told AFP before the Interpol vote.

He alleged that “the attempt by the Palestinians to politicise what is a super-professional organisation is very harmful to Interpol.”

Baker rejected the notion that Palestinians would be able to initi­ate arrest warrants at will against Israelis by joining Interpol.

Israel said Interpol had made the world a more dangerous place by letting in the Palestinians, arguing that the Palestinian Authority is not a state and that it is ineligible to join.

“By admitting ‘Palestine,’ which praises terrorists of the past and refuses to condemn those of today, Interpol makes the world less safe,” Michael Oren, Israel’s deputy minis­ter for diplomacy, wrote on Twitter.

Some Israeli media commenta­tors voiced concern that, after join­ing Interpol, the Palestinians could ask the organisation to issue a red notice, an alert to police worldwide to locate and provisionally arrest an individual, pending extradition.

The procedure does not appear to pose serious legal problems for Israelis such as government officials and military officers whom pro-Pal­estinian groups have sought to have arrested during overseas visits by local authorities as suspected war criminals.

A red notice is not an internation­al arrest warrant and Interpol notes that it cannot compel any member country to detain an individual named in one.

A Palestinian bid to join Interpol last year was foiled by what Israel said was its diplomatic campaign against it.

“This victory was made possible because of the principled position of the majority of Interpol mem­bers,” Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki said in a statement.

Zeev Elkin, Israel’s minister of environmental protection, said Is­rael should cancel gestures granted to the Palestinians, including work and entry permits, and special trav­el permits for Palestinian leaders, in retaliation for the Palestinians join­ing Interpol.

Former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak called it “another fail­ure” for Israeli Prime Minister Biny­amin Netanyahu.

Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah promised not to use the organisation “for any political, military, racial or religious interven­tions or activities” and committed to cooperate with Interpol activi­ties, minutes of the Interpol meet­ing stated.

The approval vote requires the Palestinians to pay membership dues of 0.03% of the Interpol budg­et. That budget for 2017 was about $133 million. The Palestinians’ por­tion would be about $40,000.