Palestinian Authority chief Mahmoud Abbas (L) and Economy Minister Naftali Bennett.
Following comments by Economy Minister Naftali Bennett on bringing war crimes complaints against the Palestinians to the International Criminal Court, an NGO said that the work it has been doing on the issue is more serious.
Shurat Hadin – Israel Law Center said that although it has been doing serious case-intensive work on potential ICC complaints against the Palestinians for a long time, the issue was now “becoming a game for politicians with less background on the issue yelling slogans.”
The NGO added that some politicians have been raising allegations against the Palestinians for crimes that the ICC does not even handle or that would not be taken seriously by the ICC.
In contrast, Shurat Hadin said it has used a Facebook campaign since April 2013 to gather serious allegations for potential concrete complaints against Palestinian leaders to the ICC.
“We are currently preparing an indictment for war crimes against [Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas] based on two rationales,” Bennett said Sunday. “The first is the daily cash transfers to Hamas, which is firing missiles on Israeli citizens, and the second is the direct financing of murderous terrorists themselves.”
Bennett made similar comments Thursday night to Channel 2.
Bennett’s idea of the government of Israel trying to go after Abbas at the ICC would first require that Israel ratify the Rome Statute governing the ICC – which Israel has consistently shown no appetite for.
Only after ratifying the Rome Stature could Israel directly lodge a complaint with the ICC prosecutor, who would need to decide whether to launch an investigation and – potentially, eventually – file an indictment.
In contrast, Shurat Hadin, as a nongovernmental entity, could file a complaint with ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda, asking her to exercise her independent powers to open investigations.
Bensouda and her predecessor, Luis Moreno-Ocampo, were not anxious to open investigations without a state or the UN Security Council referring a situation, and if Shurat Hadin was filing such a complaint on its own, it might dead end quickly, as most such NGO complaints have.
However, if Shurat Hadin’s complaint was effectively a counter-complaint to the “State of Palestine” already filing complaints against Israelis, the logic is that Bensouda would be harder pressed to look into the complaint, even if the State of Israel itself still had not joined the ICC.
Neither the Foreign Ministry, the Justice Ministry nor Justice Minister Tzipi Livni had any comment on Bennett’s ICC threats.
Bennett’s statements come just as the United States is immersed in desperate efforts to resuscitate the negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians, which appear to be on the verge of collapse following Ramallah’s decision last week to apply for membership in over a dozen international agencies.
Bennett said that the negotiations broke down due to Abbas’s refusal to recognize Israel as a Jewish state. In an interview with Israel Radio, he lamented Livni’s statements on Saturday accusing Construction and Housing Minister Uri Ariel of sabotaging the negotiations by announcing new building plans over the Green Line.
On her Facebook page, Livni urged Israelis to act with caution even during times when the Palestinians take provocative steps.
“While we may have criticism of the Palestinians, we need to understand that even when we are right and take right decisions, construction in the settlements renders us the guilty party,” the justice minister wrote. “It’s permissible to get angry over this, but it is also possible – and even preferable – to understand and to act accordingly.”
It was noteworthy that while Livni has been challenging many of Bennett’s public statements regarding the Palestinians, her office had no comment on his ICC statements.
Bennett also had no follow- up comments after his Sunday comments.
Tovah Lazaroff and Jerusalem Post staff contributed to this report.
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