State Department opposes PA's ICC actions

State Department says PA filing complaints against Israel at International Criminal Court is counterproductive to peace.

Elad Benari ,

State Department building
State Department building

The United States said on Tuesday it opposed the Palestinian Authority’s (PA) request that the International Criminal Court (ICC) launch an immediate investigation against Israel over the deaths of 62 rioters during violent protests on the Gaza border.

"We have made clear that we oppose actions against Israel at the ICC as counterproductive to the cause of peace," said Edgar Vasquez, spokesman for the U.S. State Department's Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs, according to The Associated Press.

The State Department declined to say whether the move would trigger a closure of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) office in Washington under a provision in U.S. law that requires it to be closed if the Palestinians seek prosecution of Israelis at the ICC.

The PA official in charge of foreign affairs, Riad Malki, told reporters earlier on Tuesday that the referral to the ICC seeks an investigation into Israeli policies in Judea, Samaria, eastern Jerusalem and Gaza.

Israel condemned the PA move, describing it as “a cynical move that is not legally valid. The PA continues to abuse the tribunal for political purposes rather than to promote political negotiations.”

"It is ridiculous that the Palestinians do this while they continue to incite to terror and use children and women as human shields to cover their violent attempts to harm the security of Israeli citizens."

"Israel expects the court and the prosecutor not to surrender to Palestinian pressure and not to allow the Palestinians to bring about further politicization of the tribunal or to divert it from its original mandate. Israel operates in accordance with independent and thorough judicial oversight and review mechanisms, as appropriate for a democratic state and in accordance with international law," the Foreign Ministry said.

Later on Tuesday, ICC Chief Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda refused the PA’s request to open an immediate investigation against Israel, saying, "The mere submission of the request does not automatically lead to the opening of an investigation.”

"Since January 16, 2015, a preliminary examination of the situation in Palestine has been conducted to determine whether there is an infrastructure for the opening of a criminal investigation, which has progressed substantially and will continue to be conducted in accordance with the Rome Statute," she added.

The PA has filed complaints against Israel with the ICC in the past. The PA officially joined the ICC on April 1, 2015, and immediately filed a series of legal complaints with the court. In addition to claiming that Israel committed war crimes during the 2014 Gaza war, it also claimed that Israeli “settlements” are “an ongoing war crime”.

The PA has had standing at the court since the UN General Assembly recognized the "state of Palestine" as a non-member observer in 2012.