Gov't may weigh sanctions on PA leaders over ICC case

Unilaterally joining international organizations as if the PA is a state, and opening a war crimes suit are violations of the Oslo Accords, Israeli officials have argued.

President Mahmoud Abbas gestures during a meeting with the Palestinian leadership to discuss the United Arab Emirates' deal with Israel to normalize relations, in Ramallah in the Israeli-occupied West Bank August 18, 2020 (photo credit: REUTERS/MOHAMAD TOROKMAN/POOL)
President Mahmoud Abbas gestures during a meeting with the Palestinian leadership to discuss the United Arab Emirates' deal with Israel to normalize relations, in Ramallah in the Israeli-occupied West Bank August 18, 2020
(photo credit: REUTERS/MOHAMAD TOROKMAN/POOL)
The government may consider sanctions on Palestinian Authority leaders following last week’s International Criminal Court ruling that it has the jurisdiction to investigate allegations of Israeli war crimes.
The ruling came after the Palestinian Authority acceded to the Rome Statute and became a member of the ICC in 2015. It then lodged a complaint about alleged war crimes in “occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem.”
Israeli officials have argued that unilaterally joining international organizations as if the PA is a state, and opening a war crimes suit are violations of the Oslo Accords.
As a result of the court’s ruling, the Interministerial Task Force for the International Criminal Court under the leadership of former minister Ze’ev Elkin recommended sanctions against the leadership of the Palestinian Authority in response to their lawfare efforts at the ICC, Makor Rishon reported.
Elkin led the Interministerial Task Force from May to December of last year before he resigned from the government to run with the New Hope party in next month’s election.
Among the recommended sanctions would be to deny senior Palestinian officials access to travel abroad via Ben-Gurion Airport or the Allenby Crossing into Jordan, arguing that they are threatening to limit Israeli officials’ and military officers’ freedom of movement via possible warrants for their arrest.
Another recommendation was to indict Palestinian officials for incitement to terrorism and that for every Israeli officer who would be arrested on alleged war crimes charges, a PA official would be charged.
Elkin also reportedly recommended a plan for construction in Israeli towns in Judea and Samaria in response to each hostile step taken by the PA.
The Prime Minister’s Office did not confirm or deny the report. A senior government official said Israel is “looking at all sorts of possibilities.”
“It’s clear that our concern is not just about Israel and the court, but about the Palestinians’ behavior,” the official said. “The problem is the Palestinian decision to join the court and press charges against Israel.”
The ICC’s Pre-Trial Chamber ruled last Friday that its chief prosecutor can investigate war crimes allegations in Gaza, the West Bank and east Jerusalem committed since June 13, 2014, including possible lawsuits against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, defense ministers and other high-level officials, as well as soldiers and commanders. The investigation includes Operation Protective Edge and settlement activity.
Netanyahu said in response to the ruling: “When the ICC investigates Israel for fake war crimes, this is pure antisemitism.
“The court established to prevent atrocities like the Nazi Holocaust against the Jewish people is now targeting the one state of the Jewish people,” he said.
The Security Cabinet released a rare public statement rejecting the ICC’s “outrageous” decision and pointed out that Israel is not a member of the court and the Palestinian Authority, does not meet the international standard for statehood, and, as such, said the ICC does not have the jurisdiction to investigate Israel.
The cabinet said that the ICC decision “exposes the court as a political body aligned with international organizations that are motivated by antisemitism.
Netanyahu and Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi have appealed to Israel’s allies around the world to push back against the ICC ruling.
The US, Canada, Australia, Germany, and Hungary have released statements criticizing the ICC decision and saying it does not have the jurisdiction to rule on this matter.
The EU, however, expressed its strong support for the ICC last week and said only that it “has taken careful note” of the decision.
“Both the ICC and its prosecutor are independent and impartial judicial institutions with no political objectives to pursue,” EU Spokesperson for Foreign Affairs Peter Stano told the European Jewish Press.
“The EU is a strong supporter of the ICC and of its independence.  All EU Member States have ratified the Rome Statute. The EU reaffirms its long-standing position in support of a negotiated two-state solution based on the internationally agreed parameters.  In order for this to be possible, unilateral actions from either side should be avoided and international law upheld.”