U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon announced yesterday that the Palestinian Authority would become a member of the International Criminal Court as of April 1, and the U.S. is upping its opposition to the move, arguing that the PA isn’t eligible to join the international body. U.S. State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki said in a televised statement, “The United States does not believe that the state of Palestine qualifies as a sovereign state and doesn’t recognize it as such and does not believe that it is eligible to accede to the Rome statute.” (The United States isn’t a member of the ICC, having signed the Rome statute in 2000 but never ratified it.)
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ bid to join the ICC began one day after the U.N. Security Council voted against a resolution for a Palestinian state, with Israeli troops withdrawing from the West Bank by 2017. It’s a largely political move: The ICC can act without a referral from the U.N. Security Council, which means membership would allow the PA to pursue much-threatened war crimes charges against Israel over this summer’s war in Gaza (they’ve already started the process).
But there are also practical concerns. If the PA indeed brought war crimes charges against Israel—which would require the ICC to sign off on the retroactive case, which isn’t guaranteed—U.S. law dictates that the $400 million in annual aid given to the Palestinians could be pulled.