Palestinian Affairs

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Despite Agreement with Hamas, Abbas Seeks ICC Membership to Attack Israel

With the media spotlight focused on Hamas rockets from Gaza falling on Israeli cities and Israel’s military response, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas was preparing late yesterday to sign a request to join the International Criminal Court in The Hague.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas will convene the Palestinian leadership at 3:30 P.M. on Wednesday at his bureau, during which he expected to sign the necessary documents for joining international organizations. Inter alia, he has requested to join the International Criminal Court in The Hague, a senior official told Haaretz.

“What is happening in the Gaza Strip is a war crime, and it is the right of the Palestinian leadership to protect the Palestinian people in Gaza with every diplomatic means and its jurists,” the official said.

Abbas has been threatening for years that the Palestinians would join the International Criminal Court (ICC) and prosecute Israel for building settlements, and the potential ensuing negative consequences for the Palestinians had so far not proved dissuasive. Abbas enumerated this strategy in a 2011 op-ed for The New York Times. In general terms, Abbas’s strategy, called the Palestine 194 plan by Jonathan Schanzer of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, could be described as “diplomatic lawfare and unilateral maneuvers.”

American lawmakers have warned Abbas that joining the ICC will result in the slashing of hundreds of millions of dollars in aid. Additionally, former ICC prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo made clear that if the Palestinians were to join the ICC it would open the door for them to “be prosecuted for Hamas rocket fire and suicide bombings against Israeli civilians.” The significant reduction in financial assistance from the U.S. and the increased legal accountability could harm the Palestinian people Abbas claims to be acting to protect.

On June 2, 2014, Fatah formed a unity government with Hamas, an internationally recognized terrorist organisation that routinely violates the Geneva Conventions by exploiting schools, mosques and hospitals to launch rockets, hiding behind Gaza’s civilian population to perpetrate terrorist attacks. The unity agreement with Hamas, in addition to implicating the PA in Hamas’s violations of international law  puts the PA in violation of the 1998 Wye Accords.

Abbas, sidelined by the current flare-up in the Hamas-Israel confrontation, seeks to put his stamp on recent events and appear relevant. However, his attempt to both steal some of the limelight and utilize the distraction for political gains may well backfire, as it did the last time he attempted such a maneuver, when Palestinian Authority was immediately in violation of  at least 11 of the 15 international treaties it signed earlier this year.

[Photo: chris pentra / YouTube ]