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U.S. Blasts Palestinian ICC Move Amid Renewed Fears of Diplomatic Scorched Earth Campaign

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas on Wednesday signed on to nearly two dozen international agreements, including the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, setting up a showdown with the United States that The New York Times assessed could include “severe sanctions” from Washington and triggering accusations that the Palestinians were opening themselves up for war crimes accusations.

Abbas had begun signaling last summer that he would seek Palestinian membership in the ICC, which had at the time renewed years of concerns regarding a kind of “scorched earth” campaign being conducted by the Ramallah: hijacking international forums to promote anti-Israel diplomacy at the expense of those forums’ viability and credibility. Wednesday’s move was opposed by the U.S. State Department, which warned that it would “badly damage [the] atmosphere with the very people with whom [the Palestinians] ultimately need to make peace.”

Both the Israeli government and American observers noted that Palestinian ascension to the ICC would immediately make Ramallah vulnerable to war crimes prosecutions. An ICC focus on Israel rather than on the Palestinians will be treated as evidence that the institution has been politicized and distorted. Brett Schaefer, a fellow at the Margaret Thatcher Center for Freedom, had already several years ago contextualized Palestinian ICC membership alongside similar ones that the Palestinians had made in the United Nations General Assembly and in UNESCO. Ramallah immediately began using its membership in the latter to push for anti-Israel resolutions – at some points bragging openly about their success in doing so – triggering responses from Washington that financially crippled the organization. A similar dynamic played out in the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC), which was hijacked with similar results. The Times quoted Khalil Shikaki, director of the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research, noting that in the aftermath of today’s move, “There is no question mark as to what are the consequences, that there will be immediate American and Israeli financial sanctions” and that “[t]hose sanctions will gradually become more and more crippling, and this could indeed be the beginning of the end of the P.A.”

[Photo: Global Panorama / Flickr ]