Turning to Vienna, where the International Atomic Energy Agency unexpectedly recognized the Palestinian territories as a state yesterday, when the Director General of the nuclear watchdog organization Yukiya Amano signed an agreement with the Palestinian Ambassador to Austria, Salah Abdul Shafi. The document formalized the membership of “Palestine” at the international body, and permits IAEA inspectors to conduct safety checks of radioactive materials and fissile nuclear materials, such as uranium. No nuclear power plants are located in the Palestinian Authority, although medical equipment with nuclear elements are believed to be in use at physics departments in hospitals and universities.
Israel strongly disapproved of the agreement, which Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Emmanuel Nahshon called a “violation of international conventions,” and declared to be “another attempt by the Palestinian Authority to join international organizations in order to exploit them for political purposes.” Jerusalem views the move as a further step in the Palestinian’s unilateral quest for statehood without having to negotiate a long term peace settlement with Israel. The Foreign Ministry Spokesman further stressed that “Israel does not recognize the attempts of the PA to join such organizations and such institutions as state.” Ramallah undertook similar efforts by joining UNESCO in 2011 and the Universal Postal Union in 2018.
In acknowledgement that it is unclear how the IAEA could conduct thorough nuclear inspections in a territory whose borders have yet to be set, an IAEA spokesperson told the Hebrew Maariv newspaper that “The agreement does not in any way imply an expression of a position regarding the legal status of any state or territory or its powers or demarcation of its borders.”
It is important to note the recognition could have ramifications on the United Nations, to which the IAEA reports – as the United States is prohibited by law from contributing any funds to any UN organization that grants membership to an entity lacking “internationally recognized attributes” of statehood. As of 2016, the US was contributing 200 million dollars a year to the atomic agency.