On Wednesday President Mahmoud Abbas signed the Rome Statute – and fourteen other international treaties, including U.N. Convention Against Transnational Organized Crime, the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea, two additional protocols to the Geneva Conventions and the Convention on Cluster Munitions.
Palestinian leaders have moved away from the US-backed peace negotiation process with Israel which they feel has failed and are on track for IIC membership after a process expected to take about sixty days.
Recently, a UN Security Council resolution mandating a peace agreement with Israel by the end of 2015 and an independent Palestinian state by the end of 2017 failed by only one vote after it is reported that the Israeli prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, and the US secretary of state, John Kerry pressured the Nigerian prime minister to go back on his undertaking to support it.
The Palestinians rightly feel international public opinion is shifting in their favour, especially in Europe, and believe that Israel can be found guilty of war crimes on their territory:
- Article 7 of the Rome Statute provides for prosecution of the crime of apartheid, which Palestinians believe describes Israel’s occupation of lands in East Jerusalem and the West Bank and the treatment of Palestinians living there.
- Article 8 prohibits the transfer of a country’s civilian population into occupied territory, which applies to Israel’s continued expansion of settlements on lands it occupied in 1967.
- Operation Protective Edge, the most recent offensive, conducted in July and August last year, killed more than 2,100 Palestinians, many of whom were civilians.
A counter charge could be made in the IIC; during Operation Protective Edge, Hamas and other militant groups in Gaza fired thousands of rockets and mortars into Israeli civilian areas, most of which were destroyed by Israel’s Iron Dome antimissile system but 67 Israeli soldiers and six civilians in Israel were killed.
Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said Israel would retaliate if Mr Abbas proceeded with the IIC application; one measure would be to withhold tax revenues Israel collects on behalf of the PA. Israel might also continue to build more settlements on occupied land – but the Palestinians point out that any such moves would open Israel to further prosecution under the Rome Statute.
A Reuters report reminds us that under U.S. law, $400 million in economic support aid would be cut off if the Palestinians used membership in the International Criminal Court to make claims against Israel.
But there does seem to be some hope for a gradual move towards more peaceful and constructive Israeli-Palestinian interaction in 2015.