Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas moved to join the International Criminal Court (ICC) on Wednesday, expressing intentions to sue Israel for war crimes, despite objections from the United States.
The move came a day after the UN Security Council rejected a resolution which would have established a Palestinian state and required Israeli withdrawal from the Palestinian territories within three years. The United States was vocally opposed to the resolution, but did not have to use its veto option on the council.
Palestine’s application to the ICC comes by Abbas’ signing of the Rome Statute, the 1998 international law that allows the court to prosecute war crimes and other atrocities committed on its territory. As American University professor David Bosco explains, Palestinian membership in the ICC will still have to be ratified by the Palestinian government, which is divided between rival factions Fatah and Hamas.
The United States has signed the Rome Statute, but it was never ratified by the Senate.
Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu said via a spokesperson that the Palestinians have more to fear from ICC jurisdiction than Israel. Past ICC cases show that the court has prosecuted both sides of conflicts, and so Hamas officials will likely see as much trouble under investigation as any heavy-handed Israeli officers.
The filing comes at a time when Israeli domestic politics are in disarray. Israel’s parliament, the Knesset, disbanded in early December and the country will be holding elections in March. While opposition parties are trying to out-maneuver Netanyahu, analysts suspect that concerns over security will strengthen his advantage at the polls. The Palestinian bid is likely to exacerbate those tensions. (RELATED: Will Netanyahu Remain Israel’s Prime Minister?)
The Palestinian Authority has promised to join the ICC since it became a nonmember observer state of the UN in 2012.
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