Fireworks are exploding throughout Ramallah in celebration of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s surprise move to sign the Rome Statute along with 21 other international treaties, one day after his draft resolution seeking to end Israel’s occupation through negotiations failed to pass the United Nations Security Council.
Abbas had held off in the past on acceding to the Rome Statute, which allows the Palestinian government to present charges against Israel in the International Criminal Court (ICC). The signing tonight was unexpected.
The letters to join the conventions were inked in a meeting with Palestinian leaders at the Muqataa, the seat of the Palestinian Authority, at 6:45pm Jerusalem time. “We have a right to sign all of the international conventions and agreements,” said Abbas after a raising of hands from Palestinian leaders in favor of acceding to the Rome Statute and the other international treaties. Then Chief Palestinian Negotiator Saeb Erakat, a longtime advocate of joining the ICC, presented him with the letters and a pen. After the vote, the Palestinian leaders and media clapped, and copies of the documents were distributed to the committee members.
The signing of the letters followed a state ceremony also at the Muqataa to mark the 50 year anniversary of the founding of Abbas’s Fatah political party. But the announcement came after the thousands of Fatah supporters had cleared from the government compound.
Abbas said joining the convention was a result of yesterday’s vote at the Security Council where he sought, “A time limit for the negotiations, to end the occupation and to give us a Palestinian state with east Jerusalem as its capital,” he said in his address tonight.
“There was some pressure to delay this act,” continued the president, “we were expecting to have nine votes because we know who is with us and who is not and at the final moment one country withdrew.” An official with the Palestinian Authority said Nigeria had committed to vote in favor of the resolution and in a surprise move, changed their vote without notice. “We hoped that if we had nine votes that the Americans would not veto it,” Abbas added.
Abbas’s move to join the ICC opens the gate for Palestine to take Israel to the court over violations of the Fourth Geneva Conventions, specifically over Israel’s settler population living in the West Bank. Over 500,000 Israeli settlers reside in the occupied territory.
The State Department condemns the move. It
“will badly damage atmosphere with the very people with whom they ultimately need to make peace…”
AP’s Matt Lee reports, and:
“We strongly oppose #Palestinian action at the #ICC,” per @statedept. “Counter-productive” and does nothing for statehood aspirations.
Israel has also condemned. PM Benjamin Netanyahu’s comments:
“It is the Palestinian Authority – which is in a unity government with Hamas, an avowed terrorist organization that, like ISIS, perpetrates war crimes – that needs to be concerned about the International Criminal Court in the Hague.
“We will take steps in response and we will defend the soldiers of the IDF, the most moral army in the world.
“We will rebuff this additional attempt to force diktat on us just like we rebuffed the Palestinian appeal to the UN Security Council.”
The New York Times characterizes Palestine’s action as a “provocative move” in defiance of Israeli and American warnings:
President Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority signed papers Wednesday to join the International Criminal Court, a provocative move that could lead to the prosecution of Israeli officials on charges of war crimes and risks severe sanctions from Washington and Jerusalem.
The Times doesn’t usually tell its readers what to think in such blatant manner. As for Israeli settlements? Earlier this year, settlements just seem provocative to some:
Critics of Israeli settlement policy see every push forward as a provocation that further hampers the prospects for a two-state solution.