Senate warns 'strong response' prepared to Palestinian ICC action

US senators warned the PA they would seek ways to protect Israeli citizens from "politically abusive" ICC actions.

January 10, 2015 01:08
1 minute read.
The Hague

The entrance of the International Criminal Court (ICC) is seen in The Hague. (photo credit: REUTERS)


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WASHINGTON -- Key members of the United States Senate issued a warning to the Palestinian Authority on Friday, warning the "deplorable, counterproductive" decision to join the International Criminal Court "will be met with a strong response."

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas signed the Rome Statute of the ICC on December 30, paving the way for PA membership.

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"Existing US law makes clear that if the Palestinians initiate an ICC judicially authorized investigation, or actively support such an investigation, all economic assistance to the PA must end," Senators Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina), Robert Menendez (D-New Jersey), Chuck Schumer (D-New York) and Mark Kirk (R-Illinois) said in a statement. "In light of this legal requirement, Congress will reassess its support for assistance to the PA and seek additional ways to make clear to President Abbas that we strongly oppose his efforts to seek membership in the ICC."

The State Department issued a similar warning this week. Obama administration officials said that the Palestinian Authority does not qualify legally for membership to the international court, as 'Palestine' is not yet a sovereign state.

"Neither the steps that the Palestinians have taken, nor the actions the UN Secretariat has taken in performing the Secretary-General’s functions as depositary for the Rome Statute, warrant the conclusion that the Palestinians have established a 'state' or have the legal competences necessary to fulfill the requirements of the Rome Statute," State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said.

But administration officials also said that Congress, not the president, has the primary responsibility of funding or defunding the PA. The US offers roughly $400 million in aid to the Palestinians annually.

"If the ICC makes the egregious mistake of accepting the Palestinian Authority as a member, given that it is not a state, Congress will seek ways to protect Israeli citizens from politically abusive ICC actions," the senators said in a joint statement. "Today there is no viable Palestinian state, and nothing will bring about that goal other than direct negotiations."

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