Daily Israel Report

Despite Risks, PA Says Its Ready to Join ICC

While the PA could pursue claims against Israel, Israel could do the same against the PA - and make a better case, many legal experts say.
By Moshe Cohen
First Publish: 7/31/2014, 8:34 AM

Smoke from Ashdod gas station hit by rocket
Smoke from Ashdod gas station hit by rocket
Flash 90

The Palestinian Authority has decided to sign the Rome Statue of the International Criminal Court, which would qualify it to be considered for full membership in the ICC. As a member of the ICC, the PA could sue Israel for “war crime violations,” demanding compensation and sanctions against Israel for its activities in Operation Protective Edge.

The PA in the past tried to invoke the ICC against Israel, but because membership in the Court is limited to recognized nations, the Court rebuffed the PA's suits, sending them back to the UN Security Council. After the General Assembly recognized the PA as a “state” in 2012, observers said the Court was likely to accept its membership bid this time.

PA officials realize, however, that joining the ICC is a calculated risk – because it would give Israel a forum to pursue war crimes charges against the Authority as well. Among the violations the PA could be charged stemming from Operation Protective Edge are indiscriminate firing of missiles at Israeli civilians. While the missiles are being fired from Gaza, which is under the control of Hamas, the recently signed cooperation agreement between Hamas and Fatah nominally puts PA chief Mahmoud Abbas back in charge of Gaza. Legal experts say that Israel's case against Hamas and the PA is legally much stronger than the PA's case against Israel.

In a recent interview, the Palestinian Authority's envoy to the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) has said the PA has no hope of pressing charges against Israel in international courts - because Palestinian terrorist groups are far worse violators of international law themselves.

Noting concerns that Israel could launch legal offensives of its own against the PA should it sign up to the ICC, the presenter asked whether such a move would be realistic. The response was unequivocal.

"The missiles that are now being launched against Israel - each and every missile constitutes a crime against humanity, whether it hits or misses, because it is directed at civilian targets," said Khreisheh.

He went on to claim that Israel, too, was guilty of such crimes during the conflict, and also mentioned contested claims about the legality of Israeli building in Judea and Samaria.

But he maintained that human rights abuses by Palestinian terrorist groups were far worse - particularly when it came to harming civilians.