Exclusive: Israel again campaigning to stop Palestinian Interpol membership
Roslan RAHMAN (AFP/File)
The Palestinian Authority is lobbying to join Interpol at its upcoming General Assembly in Beijing, and Israel is engaged in diplomatic efforts to thwart its accession.
Interpol’s General Assembly voted 62-56 against a Palestinian membership request in Indonesia in November 2016, also suspending applications by Kosovo and the Solomon Islands. At the time, Interpol's Executive Committee appointed former UN Legal Counsel Hans Corell to recommend a "clear and transparent process with a defined set of criteria for membership" for new states ahead of the 2017 summit.
The Palestinian Authority is now hoping to secure membership of Interpol during the organization’s 86th General Assembly between 26-29 September in Beijing, China.
Interpol is an intergovernmental organization, representing the police bureaux of 190 states. It serves as the main forum for international cooperation between separate police forces.
Palestinian Police Chief Hazem Atallah met Interpol Secretary General Jurgen Stock in Lyon, France, on 21 August, telling him that the Palestinian Police had reached the necessary professional standards qualifying them to join the international security system.
According to the Palestinian Civil Police, the head of Interpol praised the level that the Palestinian police have reached. Furthermore, the latest report of the Office of the Quartet states that “the PA Civilian Police has demonstrated professionalism and efficiency in fighting and preventing crimes.”
i24NEWS understands Israel is pursuing a two-pronged diplomatic strategy to block the Palestinian request for membership of Interpol. Firstly, Israel is negotiating with Interpol’s leadership to tighten the proposed criteria for new members, in an effort to disqualify the Palestinians from joining. It is also lobbying Interpol members to reject against Palestinian membership when it comes up for a vote, which would require a two-thirds majority.
The Palestinian Authority formally applied to Interpol in 2015, arguing that membership would help it prosecute fugitives wanted on criminal and financial corruption charges.
As a rule, Israel opposes Palestinian efforts to secure recognition of an independent State of Palestine through membership of international institutions.
Specifically, however, Israel is concerned that Interpol membership would enable the Palestinian Police to request 'Red Notices' against Israeli citizens, asking Interpol's General Secretariat to assist foreign police forces in locating them with a view to seeking their arrest or extradition.
Israel also fears that Palestinian membership of Interpol would jeopardize international intelligence-sharing, risking the leaking of sensitive information to terrorists. All 190 Interpol central bureaux are connected to a computer network called ‘I-24/7’ which enables them to share data centrally, providing mutual access to each other’s criminal databases.
Chief Superintendent (ret.) Asher Ben Artzi, former director of Interpol in the Israeli Police, told i24NEWS that the Israeli police do not trust their Palestinian counterparts with the same intelligence it shares with foreign states. “The police have information on hostile terrorist actors that it does not want to reach the Palestinian forces,” he said. Even if that intelligence is routinely shared with other Arab states through this multinational network, he adds, those states do not necessarily pass it on to the PA.
Israeli diplomats are also arguing that Interpol should not vote on new membership applications immediately after endorsing new criteria for membership, arguing that time should be given to evaluate those requests properly in light of whatever criteria are endorsed.
The Israeli Foreign Ministry declined to comment, saying the matter was too sensitive. The Israel Police and Israeli Minister of Public Security did not return requests for a comment.
Eylon Aslan-Levy is an anchor and correspondent at i24NEWS
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