JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Interpol voted on Wednesday to admit the State of Palestine as a member over Israeli objections at the international police organisation’s general assembly in Beijing.
Dealt a diplomatic blow, Israel said Interpol, which is dedicated to fostering cross-border cooperation against crime and terrorism, had made the world a more dangerous place by letting the Palestinians in.
Israel had argued that Palestine is not a state and that it is ineligible to join. Under interim Israeli-Palestinian peace deals, a Palestinian Authority was granted limited self-rule in the occupied West Bank and the Gaza Strip.
Shortly before the vote in the Chinese capital, the Israeli Foreign Ministry said Israel’s efforts to delay the ballot until next year had failed.
“This victory was made possible because of the principled position of the majority of Interpol members,” Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki said in a statement.
Interpol said membership applications by the State of Palestine and the Solomon Islands were approved at its annual general assembly by more than the required two-thirds majority of votes. The organisation now has 192 members.
A Palestinian bid to join last year, at an Interpol conference in Indonesia, was foiled by what Israel said was its diplomatic campaign against it.
In 2012, the U.N. General Assembly upgraded the Palestinian Authority’s observer status at the United Nations to “non-member state” from “entity”, like the Vatican.
The step fell short of full U.N. membership, but it had important legal implications in enabling the Palestinians to join the International Criminal Court and other world bodies.
“By admitting ‘Palestine’, which praises terrorists of the past and refuses to condemn those of today, Interpol makes the world less safe,” Michael Oren, Israel’s deputy minister for diplomacy, wrote on Twitter.
He spoke a day after a Palestinian shot dead three Israeli guards in the Israeli-occupied West Bank and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas ignored a call by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to condemn the attack.
Some Israeli media commentators have voiced concern that as an Interpol member, Palestine could ask the organisation to issue a “Red Notice”, an alert to police worldwide to locate and provisionally arrest an individual, pending extradition.
But the procedure does not appear to pose serious legal problems for Israelis such as government officials and military officers whom pro-Palestinian groups have sought to have arrested by local authorities as suspected war criminals during overseas visits.
A red notice is not an international arrest warrant, and on its website Interpol notes that it cannot compel any member country to detain an individual named in one.
Editing by Maayan Lubell and Mark Heinrich