Palestinian statehood to kill Israel's immunity

With full member status at the UN, Palestine may finally be able to hold Israel to account for its crimes against the Palestinian people and the occupation of their land, believes Palestinian politician Hanan Ashrawi.

­She says receiving full recognition would officially define Palestinian territory as ‘occupied’ by Israel rather than merely ‘disputed,’ and “would lay the foundation of any resolution based on international law.”

“That opens the door for us to become a member of all UN organizations, institutions, agencies, and so on. It would empower the Palestinians,” she said. “We can also hold Israel accountable, which is something that is driving Israel and the US absolutely insane."

“They just want to ensure that Israel continues to act outside and above the law,” she added.

Hanan Ashrawi is at pains to explain why Israel and the US are so worried about Palestinian statehood, which would bring access to the instruments of accountability – particularly the International Criminal Court.

“[ICC’s statute] describes settlement activities as a war crime,” she said. “Automatically we can file a suit and law cases against not just against the government, but against all settlers.”

Ashrawi believes the chief reason Israel has been given special treatment is because it has a powerful lobby in the US.

“Israel is not treated like any other country, Israel has constantly being exempt,” she said. “The Palestinians were deprived from the protection of the law.”

The US has made clear that a veto is really its only option when it comes to a UN Security Council vote on Palestinian statehood. But Hanan Ashrawi says Palestinians have other routes to receiving statehood and are “keeping all their options open.”

“We could also go to the General Assembly and ask for upgrading of our status, ask for greater recognition and then ask for support, but our bid to go to the Security Council,” she said. “And if the US wants to isolate itself with Israel on the wrong side of the law, that is its own choice.”

Hanan Ashrawi believes that “by adopting the Israeli position and then trying to shove it down the throat of the Quartet, the US is really distorting a legal system, as well as political system, as well as the human imperative of achieving a just peace.”

She also believes that the global principles of democracy, freedom, human rights and dignity apply to humanity as a whole. “Yet when it comes to Palestinians we are decontextualized,” Ashrawi said. 

“And the exemption of the Palestinians from these values and the exemption of Israel from accountability for violation these values will no longer be tolerated. It may, for a while – the Americans may succeed in having their own narrow self-interest trump those values and principles – but not for long, because they, too, will be held accountable by their own people.”