Palestine Just Joined Interpol. Is That Bad for Israel?

Interpol, the international police organization, has voted to accept Palestine as a member country — which will heighten fears in Israel that Palestine could use Interpol to target Israeli officials.

Interpol membership will bring several benefits to Palestinian police. They’ll get access to information that other police agencies around the world have shared about criminal activity and will be able to issue red notices, which function as international nonbinding warrants requesting the extradition of criminal fugitives.

And that’s what makes Israel nervous. Israel is strongly opposed to Palestine’s membership in Interpol (Israel opposes Palestine’s entry into any international organization, insisting that it is not an independent state) and blocked its attempt last year to achieve Interpol membership, warning that Palestine might issue red notices against Israeli government officials. In the end, 75 countries supported Palestine’s bid for membership, 34 abstained, and 24 opposed it.

Interpol’s constitution forbids the use of red notices for political purposes. But some countries have been known to abuse Interpol, particularly its red notice system, for political purposes. Russia, China, Venezuela, and Turkey have issued red notices for dissidents and activists, in addition to the actual criminals for which the system is intended. (Interpol functions primarily as a liaison between police agencies around the world and does not itself have agents with policing powers.)

Interpol carefully vets red notice requests, which must be based on documented evidence of wrongdoing, such as a domestic arrest warrant. But it is notoriously difficult to remove a red notice once it has been issued, despite recent reforms attempting to streamline the appeals process.

Bruno Min, a legal and policy officer at Fair Trials, a Europe-based human rights organization with a special focus on Interpol, said that Israel may also be concerned about the sharing of sensitive data.

“A lot of Interpol’s work is about being able to share data,” Min told Foreign Policy. “Perhaps they might have concerns that any information that they try to disseminate through Interpol’s channels, Palestine would now have access to.”

But Palestine’s membership in Interpol shouldn’t actually pose a new concern for Israel, he said: Pretty much the whole world is already in the police organization.

“Almost every country in the world is a member of Interpol, with the notable…

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