Palestinian Authority advances bid to file lawsuits against Israel at ICC

PA foreign minister says Palestinians submitted request to set date for filing cases about settlements, alleged war crimes.

Palestinian Authority Foreign Minister Riad al-Malki (C) leaves the ICC at the Hague, August 5, 2014 (photo credit: REUTERS)
Palestinian Authority Foreign Minister Riad al-Malki (C) leaves the ICC at the Hague, August 5, 2014
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Authority has submitted an official request to the International Criminal Court to set a date to discuss the possibility of two war-crimes lawsuits against Israel, PA Foreign Minister Riad Malki said on Monday.
The Palestinians want the ICC to sue Israel for war crimes it claims were committed during last summer’s Operation Protective Edge and for Jewish building over the 1949 Armistice Line in Jerusalem and the West Bank.
Malki, who is currently visiting Italy, told the Voice of Palestine radio station that he submitted the request to the ICC two days ago.
“I have submitted a request to the court to set a date for us to present the files of settlements and Israeli war crimes,” Malki said. “We’re now awaiting the court’s response. This could take place in mid-June.”
Malki said that, once the ICC sets a date, he would head to The Hague to follow up on the case. He said a special Palestinian committee has been entrusted with preparing the files that would be brought before the ICC.
“The procedures have begun and we will work seriously and professionally in accordance with a timeline,” he added.
US Ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro spoke out against Palestinian efforts at the ICC in a speech Tuesday to the Israel Bar Association Conference in Eilat.
The US opposes the PA move and will “use all tools at its disposal to combat delegitimization against Israel,” Shapiro said.
Shapiro added that the US is against “unilateral moves from any side,” including Israeli building in West Bank settlements.
ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda recognized the “State of Palestine” in January on an initial basis solely for purposes of starting a preliminary probe into alleged war crimes by the IDF during the 2014 war.
In April, the Palestinians formally acceded to the Rome Statute, which allowed them to become a member state to the ICC. As a result, the PA is now eligible to file other potential alleged war crimes complaints with Bensouda, such as those relating to ongoing settlement activity and Jewish building over the Green Line in Jerusalem.
Bensouda makes the final decision on whether to open a criminal investigation on the Gaza war, let alone an indictment.
She has indicated that she may take several months regardless of any desired timeline by the PA or Israel.
In an interview she granted the Associated Press earlier this month, Bensouda said she had requested information on Gaza from both Israel and the Palestinians.
At present, Bensouda is merely reviewing the Gaza material on a preliminary basis to determine whether the possibility of whether a criminal investigation is warranted.
In 2013, a United Nations Human Rights Council report on Jewish building over the pre-1967 lines found that such activity was prohibited under Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention. That article views the direct or indirect transfer of a civilian population into occupied territory as a war crime.
Israel has long argued that the areas over the pre-1967 lines are not occupied Palestinian territory because they were never under Palestinian sovereignty and, thus. the Fourth Geneva Convention is not applicable.
Israel’s position is that, therefore, the status of the territories is disputed and must be resolved by direct negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.
The Palestinian push at the ICC is only part of the PA’s plan to make use of all international forums to put an end to and isolate Israel’s “destructive policy,” Nabil Abu Rudaineh, spokesman for the PA president’s office, said.
He added that, as a result, he expects a “major political confrontation” with Israel.
Referring to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s statement on Jerusalem Day that the city would remain the eternal and undivided capital of Israel, Abu Rudaineh said such remarks contradicted UN and Arab summit resolutions, as well as international conventions.
“There will be no peace and stability in the Middle East without east Jerusalem as the capital of a Palestinian state,” Abu Rudaineh said.
At a speech Netanyahu gave in the Knesset on Tuesday in honor of Jerusalem Day, he said Israel’s right to build anywhere in its united capital is based on 3,000 years of history that date back to the Bible.
Those who refuse to except that Jerusalem is the nation’s capital are the same ones who deny that Israel is a Jewish state, he said.
Netanyahu said he had given instructions to build everywhere in Jerusalem, including new homes for Israeli-Arabs. In his Knesset speech, he specifically mentioned that he had given instructions to build in Jewish neighborhoods of Jerusalem over the Green Line, such as Har Homa.
“I have a clear position: We are building in Jerusalem,” he said.