The Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague announced on Tuesday that the “State of Palestine” has joined it, becoming its 118th member state.
It is unclear how significant an achievement joining the PCA is, with the Palestinians likely to brandish it as supporting their joining the International Criminal Court and Israel likely to underplay it. The PCA is much less prominent than the ICC.
At press time, the Palestinian Authority had not responded to inquiries and the Foreign Ministry said, “This is a legal body which is not among the more important ones. What a waste that the Palestinians continue to invest efforts to be accepted into these kinds of bodies instead of returning to the negotiating table.”
Israel opposes any recognition of “Palestine” as a state outside of bilateral negotiations.
The ICC Prosecution in January 2015 accepted “Palestine” as a state for purposes of opening an examination of war crimes allegations relating to 2014’s Operation Protective Edge against Hamas in the Gaza Strip and of the settlements enterprise. Israel has been trying to convince the ICC Prosecution to back away from this position.
Tuesday’s news only complicates Israel’s efforts.
The PCA was the first international organization for peaceful civil dispute resolution between states through arbitration, and is nearly 50 years older than the International Court of Justice and 100 years older than the International Criminal Court, having been established in 1899.
Arbitration is an alternative to civil litigation, but the arbitrator, in place of a judge, can still usually bind the sides to follow his decision.
Like the ICC’s explanation of accepting “Palestine” as a state, the PCA’s explanation was very technical.
A statement by the PCA said that at its March 9 and 14 meetings, “the PCA Administrative Council discussed the status of the State of Palestine in relation to the 1907 Hague Convention for the Pacific Settlement of International Disputes.”
It noted that “Palestine” became a member by virtue of a vote of 54 in favor and 25 abstentions.
Further, the statement indicated that “the council concluded its consideration by taking note that the State of Palestine is a Contracting Party to the 1907 Hague Convention for the Pacific Settlement of International Disputes, and a member of the Permanent Court of Arbitration, in accordance with the letter of the depository of the Convention, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands, dated 13 November 2015.”
Essentially, the PCA said that since “Palestine” has already joined related international conventions, and the Netherlands, which is responsible for deciding to accept letters of membership, accepted its letter to join the PCA, granting membership was almost automatic.