The PLO will begin drafting an immediate plan for Palestinian membership in international institutions in response to Israeli construction in the West Bank, official Palestinian news agency WAFA reported Monday evening.
The Palestinians — who won the status of nonmember observer state at the UN in November 2012 — had agreed not to apply for membership in international institutions for a nine-month period in return for a gradual Israeli release of 104 Palestinian prisoners jailed before the signing of the Oslo Accords in September 1993. The fourth and final phase of the prisoner release is scheduled for the end of March.
“The Executive Committee [of the PLO] has called on its political committee to immediately prepare an operative plan implementing the precepts of the UN decision on the membership of the state of Palestine and the benefits of joining international UN organizations and treaties,” read a statement issued following a PLO meeting Monday night in Ramallah headed by PA President Mahmoud Abbas.
Israeli construction beyond the Green Line is considered by Palestinians the most significant impediment to a peace deal. The government approval last week of 1,400 new homes in the West Bank earned criticism from both coalition and opposition members, and was described by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon as “an obstacle to peace.”
The Executive Committee noted in its statement that the pace of settlement construction has hastened during the negotiations with Israel, which began last July.
PLO Executive Committee member Hanan Ashrawi has been pushing for a Palestinian international drive as early as last August, telling Palestinian Radio that it was a mistake not to begin the appeal before the recent round of negotiations got under way.
Israeli experts are divided on the danger of unilateral Palestinian accession to international institutions. One Israeli official told The Times of Israel that Palestinians have managed to “hijack” UNESCO’s agenda and turn it into an Israel-bashing organ since joining the UN’s cultural organization in October 2011. The official was not concerned, however, about Palestinians joining the International Criminal Court where they could sue Israelis, saying such a move could easily backfire.
Others, like former legal adviser to the Israeli Foreign Ministry Alan Baker, believe a Palestinian move in the international arena would be of little consequence for Israel.
“So the Palestinians will go to the International Health Organization, the International Postal Union and the Civil Aviation Authority. So what? That won’t give them statehood. It won’t make a difference, because Israel is still sitting in Judea and Samaria [the West Bank], and any change can only come about as the result of a negotiation process.”