Palestinians apply to join international conventions

WASHINGTON (JTA) — Palestinians applied to join 15 agreements and conventions governing human rights and international relations.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas made a show Tuesday of signing 15 applications to join the conventions in retaliation for Israel’s failure to release a final batch of Palestinian prisoners by March 29.

“Since Israel failed to release the last group of prisoners, the State of Palestine is no longer obliged to postpone its rights to accede to multilateral treaties and conventions,” said a Q&A distributed by the Palestine Liberation Organization.

The deal for the relaunch of peace talks last year was that Israel would release prisoners jailed for terrorist acts that predate the 1993 Oslo peace process and that Palestinians would stop seeking statehood recognition outside the context of the peace process.

Details of each side’s commitment were never released, but Israel had plans to release the final batch of 26 of 104 prisoners by March 29. Israel suspended the release in part because of Abbas’ refusal to commit to another nine months of talks. Israel had already released 78 such prisoners.

A number of right-wing Israeli officials on Wednesday were already calling for the suspension of the talks because of Abbas’ latest action.

The list of 15, however, did not include any international organizations, only conventions, something U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry emphasized on Tuesday evening.

“None of the agencies that President Abbas signed tonight involve the U.N.,” Kerry said. “None of them. And President Abbas has given his word to me that he will keep his agreement and that he intends to negotiate through the end of the month of April.”

The PLO Q&A also said Abbas was committed to seeing out the current round of talks.

“The PLO is committed to negotiations until the 29th April, as agreed,” it said.

Leading the list are the Four Geneva Conventions of Aug. 12, 1949 and the First Additional Protocol, which govern the treatment of combatants and civilians in war between countries, and the Vienna Conventions on Diplomatic Relations and on Consular Relations, which govern the treatment of diplomats.

Also on the list are conventions on the rights of the child and of persons with disabilities and conventions against torture and discrimination against women.

The U.N. office that handles relaying such applications to the appropriate bodies told The New York Times that processing the applications would take time.

Congressional lawmakers on Wednesday pressed Samantha Power, the U.S. envoy to the United Nations, to make clear that applying to join the conventions was counterproductive.

“The administration must send a clear message to the Palestinians that the only path to statehood is through a negotiated agreement with Israel, not through unilateral attempts at the U.N.,” Rep. Kay Granger (R-Texas) told Power at a hearing of the Appropriations Committee’s Foreign Operations subcommittee that she chairs, according to a Reuters report.

Granger’s Democratic counterpart, ranking member Rep. Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.), agreed.

“It is counterproductive and doesn’t move them closer to any final resolution,” she said.

Congressional appropriators have the power to cut funding to the Palestinians should they join any international bodies outside the context of a peace agreement.

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