The Palestinian Authority officially join the International Criminal Court at The Hague (ICC) on Wednesday, a move that was initiated by PA President Mahmoud Abbas after the failure of peace talks last year.
By joining the ICC, the Palestinians seek to sue Israel for what they say are “war crimes,” despite potential backlash from Israel and the US.
On January 1, the PA signed the Rome Statute, the founding treaty of the ICC. The UN announced that it would accept the “State of Palestine” as a member of the high court and implement its membership three months later.
In 2009, the PA applied to join the ICC but was rejected since it did not have state status. However, in November 2012, the UN granted the PA non-member state status, paving the way for the Palestinians to renew their ICC bid and join other international organizations.
Senior Palestinian official Saeb Erekat said on Monday that the ICC has already launched a preliminary investigation of alleged Israeli war crimes during last summer’s war in Gaza.
“The legal and technical committees have been extensively working on finalizing the two files,” Erekat was quoted as saying by Turkey’s Andolu news agency. “We will conduct all practical moves directly after Palestine is officially declared an ICC member on Wednesday.”
The PA has made clear it would attempt to prosecute Israel for what they call crimes against humanity directed at the Palestinians and “illegal settlements” in Judea and Samaria.
Analysts believe the PA’s move to sue Israel for any crimes during Operation Protective Edge may likely backfire since Abbas’s governmental unity partner is Hamas, who fired rockets at Israel, as well as members of his own Fatah party.
A Palestinian Arab source told Maariv on condition of anonymity on Wednesday that the “Palestinians can make a claim against the settlements, but it’s doubtful that a claim regarding the recent war in Gaza won’t bring about a counter-suit from Israel, which is preparing for this.”
The source added that “the Israelis have prepared stacks of paperwork on conduct during Operation Protective Edge, including claims of Hamas rocket fire and Palestinian groups shooting from schools and other civilian buildings. This could lead to a suit against Hamas leaders who control the Gaza Strip.”
Criminal indictment against Palestinian leaders have already been filed at the ICC as of January. Nitsana Darshan-Leitner, head of the Israel Law Center (Shurat HaDin), who filed the lawsuits, told Breaking Israel News back in January that Palestinian leadership should be held accountable for their war crimes and criminal acts.
“We filed a criminal indictment against PA officials including war crimes and criminal crimes they committed against Israelis and Palestinians themselves. Many times, Palestinian leaders are executing Palestinians without a trial. During the war, Hamas executed before cameras on the street 39 men who they thought were helping Israel. This is a crime against humanity,” she explained.
“Our goal is to blame the Palestinians for all types of war crimes. You cannot prevent the Palestinians from going to the ICC, but you can however deter them,” she added.