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Israel and Palestine

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Palestinians Seek to Isolate Israel at the United Nations

November 14th 2012

Mahmoud Abbas at parliament
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas

If the Palestinians succeed in their bid for statehood at the United Nations later this month, they will use their new status to sue the Jewish state in international courts and seize air space for military activity.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas says he will pursue a statehood bid at the world body despite opposition from the United States and Israel. The Palestinians are seeking observer status as a nation, something the U.N.'s General Assembly can grant with a simple majority vote.

According to observers, Abbas and the Palestinians have already secured that majority. However, the reaction to their new statehood status will be onerous. The U.S. could cut up to $500 million in annual aid and the State of Israel has said it may withhold millions of dollars in tax revenue it collects on behalf of the Palestinian Authority, based in Ramallah.

But according to an article in the Wall Street Journal, the financial loss may be acceptable because of the benefits that "statehood" carries. Among other advantages, a Palestinian state recognized by the General Assembly could take Israel to international criminal court, where it would likely sue Israel for alleged war crimes. The Palestinians could also seize air space and maritime rights, challenging the Jewish state's ability to defend itself and prevent terrorists from rearming.

    As an observer state, the authority also could challenge the Israeli blockade at the International Court of Justice as well as dispute Israel's claim on a gas field near Gaza. Even more troubling for Israel and the U.S. would be the Palestinian territories joining the International Criminal Court.

   Ambassador Christian Wenaweser, president of ICC Assembly of State Parties, said in an interview that a Palestine observer state could join the ICC and ask the court to investigate any alleged war crimes and other charges against Israel committed on Palestinian territory after July 2002, including Israel's 2008-2009 Operation Cast Lead war against Gaza in which it killed more than 1,000 Palestinians.

   Palestinian legislator Hanan Ashrawi has said that Israeli settlements in the Palestinian territories could also be challenged as war crimes in the court as a violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention. Faced with the American and Israeli threats, the Palestinians however could still back down, diplomats say.

Israel has made clear it will not tolerate this unilateral move without a response. Jerusalem has threatened to topple Abbas, abrogate all prior peace treaties and annex settlements if the Palestinian proceed with their U.N. plan.

Saul Roth writes for World Jewish Daily, from where this article is adapted.

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