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PA Moves to Join International Criminal Court

Abbas threatens to seek war crimes charges against Israel if approved

Stephanie Butnick
December 31, 2014
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. (ABBAS MOMANI/AFP/Getty Images)
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. (ABBAS MOMANI/AFP/Getty Images)

Hours after Mahmoud Abbas moved to join the International Criminal Court today, signing the court’s founding charter, the Rome Statute, as well as various other international treaties, the Palestinian Authority President threatened to pursue war crimes charges against Israel if accepted into the international body. (The approval process takes around 60 days).

The move comes one day after the U.N. Security Council voted against a Palestinian proposal that sought to establish a sovereign Palestinian state by 2017.

The U.S. State Department issued a statement saying it “strongly opposed” the move. “It will badly damage the atmosphere with the very people with whom they ultimately need to make peace,” the statement read.

But it’s unlikely that Abbas’ move will yield the results he seeks. As the AP points out, Israel isn’t a member of the ICC, and doesn’t recognize its jurisdiction. The court would only be able to potentially prosecute future offenses, and not incidents that may have already occurred—say, during this summer’s war in Gaza. Plus, being a member of the ICC would open up the Palestinians to potential charges against them as well.

That’s the tack that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu took when denouncing the move, saying it was the Palestinian Authority, not Israel, “that needs to be concerned about the International Criminal Court in the Hague.”

Stephanie Butnick is chief strategy officer of Tablet Magazine, co-founder of Tablet Studios, and a host of the Unorthodox podcast.