NEW YORK – The PLO plans to bring war-crimes charges against Israel within three years, executive committee member Dr. Hanan Ashrawi said at the UN on Tuesday.
The PLO leader would not give a more specific time frame but stated unequivocally that the organization is taking steps to have these charges heard either in the International Criminal Court or, less likely but still possible, the International Court of Justice.
“We want to be an active member of this international community and we will pursue accountability for Israel,” Ashrawi said.
The UN General Assembly’s 2012 vote to designate the Palestinian territory a state makes the PLO eligible to apply for ICC membership.
Ashrawi called for Israel’s withdrawal from “occupied Palestine” and adherence to the pre-1967 borders. The PLO is coordinating with the Arab League to adopt a plan of action, and Ashrawi and the PLO are requesting a Security Council resolution within this month.
During the Tuesday morning meeting of the Committee to Exercise the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, Ashrawi said the last two months of conflict have been a tipping point for the PLO and that it intends to hold Israel accountable.
“To us, the horror of Gaza has become a real game changer,” she said, emphasizing that the PLO refuses to return to the status quo.
“The ramifications of this latest assault are yet to be felt completely and yet to be defined,” she said. “The world has yet to come to grips with the immensity of the crime.”
Both sides agreed to a ceasefire to the 50-day conflict last week in Cairo. Over the weekend, Israel declared 400 hectares (about 990 acres) of land in the West Bank to be state land, which the PLO leader condemned Tuesday. “This is another war crime to add to Israel’s record,” she said.
Going a step further, she called for an end to the siege, an opening of crossing points, and the expansion of fishing areas while stressing that Gaza and the West Bank must be connected.
“Gaza must have access to the world, but also access to the West Bank,” she said.
“There is no life for Gaza without the West Bank.”
During her morning press conference, before speaking to UN committee, Ashrawi credited the penetration of social media with helping make clear to the world the reality of life on the ground during the conflict.
“The language in the public discourse has become more varied and more truthful,” she said.
Without mentioning Hamas or the weakened unified government, Ashrawi said the PLO intends to “redefine” the Palestinian Authority and its relationship with Israel. She also said that it’s time for the PLO to hold a national election.
The pattern of peace talks has been futile and has weighed heavily in Israel’s favor, she said, contesting that the most recent ninemonth peace process has helped Israel escalate its settlement efforts.
“The so-called peace process has had very serious flaws,” Ashrawi said, adding that she believes Israeli leadership has undermined efforts by US Secretary of State John Kerry over the last year to move peace talks forward.
“We do not want an open-ended occupation in the same way that we do not want an open-ended peace process,” she said, noting that to draw out peace talks would be a further violation of humanitarian rights.
“It’s time for Palestine to be liberated,” she said.