The Multilateralist

A grand bargain on Palestinian multilateralism?

A grand bargain on Palestinian multilateralism?

The Arab League’s top official has suggested that the Palestinians will seek to push for UN Security Council involvement in the peace process:

“We cannot continue with the same process of the last 20 years,” Arab League Secretary-General Nabil Elaraby said in Ramallah after meeting with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. “This is just a waste of time.”

He said the Palestinians will seek the help of the Security Council in resolving their conflict with Israel, though not without first consulting with governments of influence such as the Obama administration.

“We need a new approach that aims to end the conflict, not to manage it,” he said on his first visit to the West Bank city of Ramallah.

Meanwhile, other commentators are urging the Palestinians to advance their cause at the International Criminal Court. The UN General Assembly vote last month according Palestine observer state status may have cleared the way for the ICC to consider crimes committed on Palestinian territory (the ICC had refused to open an investigation previously because of uncertainty about whether Palestine was a state).  Commentator Sharif Nashashibi wrote recently in Al Arabiya, "the time for ICC application and legal action is now." 

A trade-off might be in order. Always outnumbered and often isolated on Israel-Palestine issues, the United States has for several decades managed to keep the Security Council to a marginal role on the peace process. But Washington and Jerusalem are deeply concerned about ICC involvement in Palestine, which raises the prospect of Israel’s settlement policy being deemed criminal. I suspect that concern runs deep enough that they might even be willing to consider a greater form of Security Council involvement in exchange for a  Palestinian agreement to shelve their ICC petition.

Allowing the Security Council back into the Middle East peace process in a sustained way  would be a bitter pill. But for Washington, the Council may be much safer than the court.