GENEVA — Twenty-five years after making their first bid for membership, the Palestinians can join the Geneva Conventions governing the rules of war and military occupations, the Swiss government said Friday.
Israel had opposed the move, arguing that there is no universally recognized Palestinian state and that it would complicate peace talks.
The Palestinian Authority signed letters of accession to several international treaties after Israel failed to carry out a planned prisoner release that had a March deadline. On Thursday, the United Nations said Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon accepted Palestinian applications to join 13 other U.N. conventions.
Switzerland, as the depositary of the Geneva Conventions, said “the state of Palestine” acceded to the conventions effective April 2.
One aspect of the Geneva Conventions that has raised particular concern in Israel is the prohibition on colonizing occupied land. Israel says this should not apply to the West Bank and Gaza because the two territories exist in sovereignty limbo — no longer claimed by Jordan and Egypt, who ruled them before 1967, while the Palestinians have never had a state.
Israel has also argued that east Jerusalem should not be considered occupied because it has extended citizenship rights to its Arab residents, although only several thousand of the city’s quarter million Arab residents have taken advantage of this. The international community has not recognized Israel’s annexation.
The Palestine Liberation Organization first asked to join the Geneva Conventions on June 21, 1989. At the time, the Swiss Foreign Ministry said it was not in a position to decide on the bid “due to the uncertainty within the international community as to the existence or non-existence of a State of Palestine.”
The U.N. General Assembly passed a motion on Nov. 29, 2012, upgrading Palestine to a “non-member observer state” of the global body.