In advance of the Palestinian government’s official ascension to the International Criminal Court (ICC) in three months, a prosecutor for the court has opened an inquiry into possible war crimes carried out by Israel. The ICC will conduct a “preliminary examination” and not an official investigation. The review will cover alleged violations “in the occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem, since June 13, 2014,” focusing on the summer war in Gaza according to a statement by the ICC.
These types of initial ICC examinations are procedural following a complaint. After the Palestinians joined the Rome Statue they turned in a declaration to the International Criminal Court asking it look into Israeli war crimes. The ICC will review the case with no commitment to take any further action. It does not mean the ICC will present charges against Israel. At the close of this examination, if ICC decides not to try Israel the Palestinians can still file their own case. Moreover, the Palestinians can not present charges directly against Israel until April 1, 2015 when their entry to the court goes into effect.
Meanwhile the Palestinian leadership is continuing to build their own case against Israel in the international court.
“The files that we are in the process of preparing is every single thing related to the aggression in Gaza and the on-going settlement expansion in West Bank and East Jerusalem,” said Palestinian Liberation Organization’s Negotiation Affairs Department Spokesperson Ashraf Khatib to Mondoweiss. In Gaza, specifically the Palestinians hope to bring a “list of issues that will be under the recent aggression,” he continued. Khatib added the charge sheet will include, “The act of deliberate attack on civilians that also includes usage of illegal weapons,” and the “targeting of UN instillations, schools, hospitals–things that violated fourth Geneva Convention and international law when it comes to humanitarian protection.”
At the moment the Palestinians do not have a firm deadline for taking Israel to The Hague. Khatib said they are waiting for the publication of a United Nations Human Rights Commission report on alleged war crimes carried out by both Israel and the Palestinians. That data is expected to comprise the bulk of the research in the Palestinian petition. The commission will submit the report in March 2015 and is currently hearing testimony by those effected from the war. This past week an Israeli mother whose child was killed from rocket fire presented evidence to the commission even though Israel is officially boycotting the hearings.
A return to the Security Council
However, before reaching the ICC the Palestinians hope to re-file a United Nations Security Council resolution to end Israel’s occupation through negotiations. The leadership is building momentum to present the Security Council with another draft resolution “in the coming few months, even less,” said Khatib.
“It was illogically treated as a confrontational and irrational effort and regrettably obstructed,” Palestinian Ambassador to the United Nations Riyad Mansour said on Thursday about the last resolution that did not pass. “In spite of this setback, we will continue to approach the Security Council,” he continued.
Over the past few days Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas has met with heads of states on his renewed effort. He seeks to pass this resolution, the third since mid-December, by winning over countries that voted against him in late December. To the surprise of the Palestinians Nigeria voted against them and the United Kingdom abstained in the last round.
On Thursday Abbas spoke with delegates from the Arab League in Cairo, and while in France attending the march following the killings at the Charlie Hebdo offices he also sat with the French President Francois Hollande. “Now we are discussing the moment—let’s say the moment or the time to go back to the Security Council,” said Khatib.
The Palestinians did have an offer from France and the United Kingdom to allow them to submit a resolution on their behalf, which was widely regarded as having a better chance of success at the Security Council. Yet they are again looking to Jordan, the Arab partner on the Security Council, to submit their resolution. Khatib said the new draft will not have any substantive changes. Right now the leaders are discussing with the Arab league ways to “strengthen the language” and close “loopholes,” he added.
Israel has already come out against a future draft resolution and litigation at the ICC. “The Palestinians are under the impression that the United Nations is their personal vending machine,” said Ambassador Ron Prosor on Wednesday at the Security Council in a debate on Middle East Peace.
Prosor slammed the Palestinian’s last foray at the Security Council in particular, because “It didn’t address Israel’s long-term security needs. It didn’t demand an end to Palestinian terrorism. And it didn’t recognize Israel as the nation state of the Jewish people.” Instead he called to return to the Roadmap outlined in 2003 under the Bush administration, which calls for a restart of peace talks to build a framework on final status issues.
“The international community must stop encouraging this march of folly. Tell the Palestinians that the claim of return is a nonstarter, make it clear that peace requires compromise, and insist that they return to direct negotiations,” Prosor said.