If That Ain’t (a) Country, It’ll Harelip the Pope
Noah Feldman discusses a possible outcome of the Palestinian statehood bid:
He [Mahmoud Abbas] could also still do what most expected him to try this week: Take his request for statehood to the UN General Assembly, where the U.S. has no veto. A two-thirds vote there would upgrade Palestine from “observer entity” to “observer state,” like the Vatican.
Winning in the General Assembly might be particularly effective after losing in the Security Council since it would give countries the chance to repudiate the U.S. veto. And an observer state can participate in UN bodies and commissions.
International Court Jurisdiction
More practically, recognition as an observer state might help the Palestinian Authority reach its goal of getting the International Criminal Court to pronounce on Israel’s behavior in the territories and perhaps even declare the building of settlements a war crime. While the Palestinian leadership has asked the tribunal to take jurisdiction as if Palestine were a state, the ICC has never said “yes” or “no.” If Palestine becomes an observer state at the UN, however, that might strengthen its case.
Israel would certainly argue that a UN observer still isn’t a real state in the sense meant by the ICC treaty. Israel would also point out that the ICC can’t act if a country that has jurisdiction over an alleged crime has adequately investigated it. Israel’s robust judicial system regularly examines claims of war crimes against its soldiers and government. The question is whether the court would buy those arguments — and whether leverage would be gained for the peace process as a result.
Consider me skeptical about the virtues of giving the International Criminal Court a bigger caseload. Brendan O’Neill and Rob Lyons have raised timely objections to that institution’s image as a guarantor of peace and justice. At best, ICC charges against Israeli officials will achieve nothing. At worst, they will make the Israeli government — and, therefore, the U.S. government — even more intransigent.
Before you start typing that furious comment, let me explain something. I don’t think or write about Israeli-Palestinian issues much anymore, for two main reasons. One, I have enough tedium, futility, and hopelessness in my life already without the “peace process,” thanks, and two, any mention of Israel attracts the sort of people (on both sides) who could make a sunnier person than I wish that an asteroid would wipe out our sorry species. All I care to say about the matter these days — and I know that it’s terribly uncosmopolitan — is that the U.S. government should completely withdraw from the dispute and let the people who actually live there resolve their differences. Or not resolve them. Withdrawal might not lead to the lion lying down with the lamb, but it would solve the only problem that the U.S. government is capable of solving: the blowback that comes from intervening in other people’s fights.
As for the Palestinian ploy at the United Nations, perhaps it will result in an entirely new framework for fruitless discussion. For instance: Are the Vatican and Palestine real states, magically endowed with moral prerogatives to kill and dispossess that individuals and voluntary associations don’t have? Stay tuned!