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The Palestinian Authority: Palestinians Join Human Rights Treaties

(May 2, 2014)

After seeking membership for the first time 25 years ago, on April 11 2014 Palestinian leadership officially joined the Geneva Convention, consisting of 13 internationally binding conventions and treaties governing the rules of warfare.  At the time of their first application, Palestinian statehood and recognition was even more hotly contested than it is today and the Palestinian application was rejected.  After Palestine was upgraded in November 2012 to a "non-member observer state" in the United Nations, Israelis vehemently opposed the Palestinian bid for joining the Geneva Convention, claiming that there is no globally recognized Palestinian state and the situation may endanger peace negotiations.  Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas praised the joining of the Geneva Convention as a "historic day for the Palestinian people".  In response to the Palestinian joining of the Geneva Convention, Israel imposed economic sanctions on the Palestinian Authority, refusing to give them $56 million in tax revenue collected by the Israelis on behalf of the Palestinian Authority.  In addition to being a response to the Palestinian signing of the Geneva Conventions, this move was meant to deal a crippling blow to the new unity Fatah-Hamas government that Israel is very skeptical about. 

In May 2014 the Palestinian Authority became an official signatory to the Vienna Convention and other global human rights treaties according to the United Nations. These treaties relate to the banning of torture and racial discrimination, as well as protecting the rights of women, children, and disabled citizens of Gaza. The Palestinian Authority also signed an anti-corruption accord.  UN spokespeople hailed the Palestinian Authority's decision to join the treaties, stating that this is a big step in the right direction for the promotion of human rights in the Palestinian territories. In addition to these treaties, on May 7 the Palestinian leadership signed a seperate international treaty that provides protection for children living in war zones and on July 2 the Palestinian Authority became an official signatory on the convention against genocides. 

Signing these treaties and accords is the Palestinian Authority's way of sidestepping peace negotiations with Israel and improving it's international image at the same time. Israeli officials claim that the Palestinians main interest in the Geneva Conventions lies in the fourth Convention, where the duties of occupying powers are defined and the occupation of Gaza by Israel would be recognized.  The Israelis also argue that Palestine is not internationally recognized as a state and therefore cannot be a party to the Geneva Convention. 

Sources: Middle East Monitor, Reuters, Times of Israel