Along with the letters of accession to the ICC, Palestine has reportedly filed a request to the Hague to investigate Israeli war crimes during the 50-day war in Gaza last summer. Palestinian officials have not yet commented on the Israeli media reports.
Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas signed the request to probe IDF’s use of force starting June 13, 2014 along with the letters of accession to the International Criminal court on Wednesday night, an unnamed NGO worker told Haaretz. On Friday the batch of newly signed documents and the petition are expected to be received by the UN secretary-general.
“As far as the Palestinian leadership is concerned, everything that had to be done to join the International Criminal Court has been done,” a Palestine Liberation Organization official told the publication.
The source stressed that official membership would enable Palestinians to file complaints against Israel without the hindrance of bureaucracy of the Palestinian Authority. The source added that Hamas leader are willing to risk standing trial at the ICC as long as Israel is brought to justice for their actions against militants in Gaza that resulted in a massive civilian casualties.
The seven weeks of Israeli bombardment and ground operation in Gaza killed more than 2,200 people – the vast majority of them civilians.
During the Gaza war, the Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat and top Palestinian and Hamas officials sealed a deal agreed to joining the ICC, knowing willingly that in response Tel Aviv might file a counter-compliant for war crimes.
Earlier on Thursday, PLO’s executive committee and Erekat submitted the letters of accession to 20 international treaties, including the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, to Deputy Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, James W. Rawley, WAFA news reported.
“We guard our people in every place, and the crimes committed against our people in eliminating them, settlements, destruction, and aggression against Gaza, they haven’t passed statutes of limitations and those who commit the crimes need to deal with the results,” Erekat said as he submitted the letters, Arutz Sheva quotes.
The petition to prosecute Israel was submitted soon after Abbas signed the ICC’s founding treaty, the Rome Statute, on Wednesday, filling a request to become a member state. That request is pending.
RT spoke to a representative from Israel’s Foreign Affairs Ministry, Oren Rozenblat who insisted Abbas’ move to join the ICC is “not a way to peace.”
“A way to peace is going through the negotiation table…and not through unilateral acts,” the spokesman says, as he warned the Palestinian Authority itself maybe prosecuted.
“Right now, part of the Palestinian Authority is the Hamas. The Hamas is a well know terrorist organization, just like ISIS,” Rozenblat told RT, claiming that Palestinians may end up in court.
For its part, Rozenblat says, Israel does not feel threatened, because Tel Aviv is confident in its forces’ conduct.
“We don’t feel threatened. We know our Israeli Defense Forces. We know the way they act. We know the way we investigate ourselves. So this is not our concern. This is their concern,” the spokesman said.
Speaking to Arutz Sheva, Shurat HaDin Israel Law Center director Nitsana Darshan-Leitner said that Palestinian case, in addition to alleged war crimes committed by the IDF, would also center on “settlement-building”, but the Gaza War will be at the heart of the accusations.
“Israel will of course try to defend itself, but chances are they will lose. And if they lose and they’re convicted for war crimes, it would be a game-changer. It would drop Israel to the bottom tier internationally,” she said. If found guilty, “Israel would have to extradite to the court those individuals or officials, IDF commanders, etc.”
Israel has already taken steps to ensure that Palestine’s ICC membership bid fails. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in a statement called on the ICC to reject it.
“We expect the ICC to summarily dismiss the Palestinian Authority’s duplicitous application because the Palestinian Authority is not a state, it is an entity that is allied with a terror organisation, Hamas, which commits war crimes,” he said.
In the meantime, Israel is getting ready to file their own claims against Hamas, if the Hague does accept Abbas’ petition.
“It could be crimes committed during the Intifada against Israelis – all the suicide bombings, all the drive-by shooting attacks. All the heads of the different armed factions have superior liability over what was done by their forces,” Darshan-Leitner explains.
The Palestinian move to join the ICC comes after Tuesday’s failed attempt at the UN Security Council to accept a resolution that called for Palestinian statehood and for an end to Israeli occupation by 2017.