JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Interpol voted on Wednesday to admit the State of Palestine as a member over Israeli objections at the international police organization’s general assembly in Beijing.
The decision came despite Israeli efforts to delay a vote and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a statement that the Palestinians’ joining the global police agency contravened signed agreements with Israel.
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 organization 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.
Netanyahu’s statement said Palestinian membership of Interpol was one of the issues discussed during a meeting with U.S. President Donald Trump’s Middle East envoy, Jason Greenblatt, who is visiting the region.
Netanyahu also raised the Palestinian refusal to condemn an attack on Tuesday in which a Palestinian laborer shot dead three Israeli guards in the Israeli-occupied West Bank.
“The actions of the Palestinian leadership in the past few days directly harm the prospects of achieving peace and the Palestinian diplomatic offensive will not go unanswered,” the statement said.
Some Israeli media commentators have voiced concern that as an Interpol member, Palestine could ask the organization 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