The Palestinian Authority has been widely accused of financial corruption, including the paying of vast sums of money to convicted terrorists. So its decision this week to sign onto 15 international treaties and conventions – including to the United Nations Convention Against Corruption - has raised some eyebrows.
President Mahmoud Abbas and his cabinet made a dramatic show Tuesday night to join the conventions, a decision they characterized as a direct response to Israel backing off of releasing a final batch of Palestinian prisoners including terrorists originally scheduled for March 29.
The Palestinians view formally joining the international treaties as another step toward recognition of an independent Palestinian state, but the topics of those treaties is drawing criticism, as the Palestinian Authority is reported to be in violation of at least 11 of the 15 it signed.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, right, joined by Palestinian chief peace negotiator Saeb Erekat, signs an application to the U.N. agencies in the West Bank city of Ramallah, April 1, 2014 (Photo: AP/Majdi Mohammed)
The Palestinian Authority has been criticized for its rampant corruption and poor governing practices, including the mismanagement of international aid.
“On its face, the PLO decision to join the U.N. Convention Against Corruption might appear to be a welcome development," Jonathan Schanzer, vice president of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and a former Treasury Department terrorism finance analyst, told TheBlaze. "After all, the Palestinians have been beset by endemic corruption for decades.”
“However, this move is not tied to a desire for greater transparency. I fully expect the corruption to continue under this leadership,” said Schanzer, author of “State of Failure: Yasser Arafat, Mahmoud Abbas, and the Unmaking of the Palestinian State,” a book which detailed Palestinian mismanagement and squandering of huge sums of international aid. “This move is a component of a campaign designed to bypass negotiations with Israel at the U.N. through international recognition. This will be followed up by a campaign to delegitimize Israel on the world stage."
“It’s no secret that the Palestinian Authority is corrupt and seeks to reward those who would harm our friend and ally, the democratic Jewish state of Israel,” Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Florida) who chairs the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Middle East and South Asia told TheBlaze in an email in March, commenting on the Palestinian Authority practice of rewarding convicted terrorists with generous financial payouts.
TheTower.org on Wednesday night posted a report detailing how the Palestinians “are in clear violation of at least 11 of the 15 treaties they just signed.” Among the examples cited were the routine violations of the Geneva Conventions by Hamas – a party that controls the Palestinian Authority legislature – in its use of human shields, mosques and hospitals from which to launch its attacks against Israel and hide weapons.
Another treaty, the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations – which requires diplomats to respect the laws of their host country - was likely violated when the Palestinian embassy in the Czech Republic was found to have been housing unregistered explosives and assault weapons. One of those explosives killed its ambassador on New Year’s Day. Czech police said this week that the ambassador was holding the explosive in his hand when it detonated.
As for the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, the Tower noted, “In 2013, honor killings in the West Bank and Gaza doubled. Palestinian women have no divorce rights. Strict Islamic laws codify inequality and restrict freedom in all aspects of life for Palestinian women.”
Selling real estate to Jews is punishable by death under Palestinian law, but the Palestinian Authority said Tuesday night that it wanted to join the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination which covers not only race but national and ethnic origin.
Blogger Omri Ceren questioned the Palestinian decision to sign onto the treaties, writing via Twitter, “It exposes Abbas to ridicule (corruption? seriously?)”
“How are [the Palestinians] going to enforce Vienna conventions when they're gunrunning out...of EU embassies? In other words, the [Palestinians] are about to ascend to a bunch of treaties they can't/won't enforce. Seems iffy,” he added.
Asked about the Palestinian move to join the treaties, State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf blamed both Israel and the Palestinian Authority, saying at her briefing Wednesday, “We’ve seen both sides take some unhelpful actions over the past 24 hours and didn’t think it was a conducive environment in which the Secretary should travel there right now.”
Secretary of State John Kerry canceled a planned meeting with Abbas in Ramallah on Wednesday in apparent response to the Palestinian move.
Members of Congress are now saying the Palestinian decision to sign onto the treaties could threaten the approximately $500 million in annual U.S. aid.
House Appropriations Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations & Related Programs Chairman Rep. Kay Granger (R-Texas) told Al-Monitor that aid should be reconsidered, since the point of the aid was to help move a peace deal forward, which the treaties decision appears to contradict.
"What a lot of it was, we're going to try to help as you try to negotiate at the peace table in good faith," Granger said. "Well, I can't see that that was good faith."
U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Samantha Power said at a Wednesday hearing, “The United States will stand with Israel, we will defend it, and we will challenge every instance of unfair treatment throughout the UN system.”
"This solemn commitment also extends to a firm opposition to any and all unilateral actions in the international arena, including on Palestinian statehood, that circumvent or prejudge the outcome that can only come about through a negotiated settlement," Power added, according to quotes published in Al-Monitor.