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The U.S. opposition to Palestine's bid for U.N. recognition is illogical.
The State Department's official mantra, from Hillary Clinton down onward, is that this will muddy the peace process. Er, what peace process? Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is determined to make sure that the negotiations go nowhere while Israeli settlements gobble up more and more Palestinian land.
"The confidence scam that Israel and the United States have been running on the Palestinians, of a 'peace process,' is finally about to meet a well-deserved demise," writes Professor Juan Cole on his Informed Comment blog. "There are now over 600,000 Israeli settlers on the Occupied Palestinian territory of the West Bank (including the areas unilaterally annexed by Israel to its 'district of Jerusalem')."
And what is the cause for the U.S. and Israeli freakout at what is largely a symbolic move?
"A major concern for the Americans is that the Palestinians might use their new status to try to join the International Criminal Court," the New York Times reports. "That prospect particularly worries the Israelis, who fear that the Palestinians might press for an investigation of their practices in the occupied territories.'
The audacity! The Palestinians may finally get justice for an illegal occupation (though the Palestinian National Authority is playing down the idea that it will rush before the court).
This has to be said: The International Criminal Court has been a bit of a disappointment. I have been a big supporter of the court and have written in its favor for more than a decade now, ever since it was being formed. But the truth is that pretty much all the targets of its investigations have been African countries with little or no muscle. The reason is a basic structural flaw: The U.N. Security Council can refer cases to the court (even regarding a non-signatory) or, conversely, block any such attempts.
The court had a chance to redeem itself when it agreed to consider whether to charge Israel for its conduct in the Occupied Territories. This April, however, it refused to move forward on the ground that Palestine was not a full U.N. member. The upgrade of Palestine from an "entity' to a "non-member state" would still not completely resolve this issue, but would definitely strengthen its legal standing.
Which is why Israel and the United States are so worried and tried (along with the United Kingdom) to have Palestine pledge not to join the court as a precondition to removing their objections to its U.N. upgrade.
The position of the United States and the United Kingdom is perplexing.
"I simply do not understand why our voting for the resolution would make the situation worse," said Tony Blair's Foreign Secretary Jack Straw. "Surely it would make it much better. Israel pockets any concession made by the West to accommodate its position and then not only does nothing but makes the situation worse."
Even some Israeli establishment figures are speaking out against the official stance.
"I think Israel has mismanaged the entire thing," Irit Kohn, the former head of international affairs for the Ministry of Justice, told GlobalPost. "Israel seems to be mostly concerned about possible Palestinian claims to the ICC, but in my opinion, even if the ICC were to recognize Palestine, which is a long shot, I don't think Israel has anything to worry about."
The Obama Administration and the Netanyahu government should listen to such voices, instead of appearing like bullies on the global stage.
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