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The politicization of Palestine’s ICC membership

While the PA always said the aim of joining the ICC was primarily to bring accountability to the long-running Palestinian-Israeli conflict

Raed Omari

Published: Updated:

That the Palestinian Authority (PA) has officially become the 123rd member state of the International Criminal Court (ICC) is good news, but the move must be placed in a political context.

While the PA always said the aim of joining the ICC was primarily to bring accountability to the long-running Palestinian-Israeli conflict, the move had more to do with increasing pressure on the right-wing coalition of four-time Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. In other words, the PA is aware of the world’s dismay over Netanyahu’s stubborn stance on the peace process, and is acting accordingly.

The war crimes committed by Israel in Gaza and the West Bank are not difficult to reveal. They do not even require an investigation by the ICC or any other relevant international body.

Imposing a punishing siege on the Gaza Strip, which is inhabited by 1.8 million people, is itself a huge crime, as are the destruction of civilian properties and places of worship, and targeting children and international relief organizations. If one day the ICC decides to embark on a fact-finding mission in Gaza, it would quickly find evidence of Israel’s violations of human rights and international law.

However, the question that needs to be raised in this context is not what the ICC can do, but why the Palestinians sought membership. During similar Israeli assaults, U.N.-led fact-finding missions found strong evidence of war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Released reports

Detailed reports have been released, indicating that Israeli military operations constituted “collective punishment” of the Palestinian people as a whole, not fighters as Israel always claims. Despite such reports, no prosecution has been carried out against Israel, which continued its wars against Gaza in 2009, 2012 and 2014. Again, why the ICC? What difference would it make?

The Palestinians have been saying the ICC was the “final resort” in their quest for justice. In other words, the Palestinians themselves have admitted that ICC membership was politicized

Raed Omari

The Palestinians have been saying the ICC was the “final resort” in their quest for justice. In other words, the Palestinians themselves have admitted that ICC membership was politicized, stemming from the PA’s frustration over Netanyahu’s unreliability as a peace partner. As such, Palestinian membership of the ICC must be viewed within the tit-for-tat cycle of the conflict with Israel.

Becoming a fully-fledged member of the ICC’s decision-making assembly of states makes the Palestinians eligible to take part in the adoption of decisions on behalf of the court. Hence membership must also viewed within Palestinian attempts to secure membership in international organizations.

The three major parties to the peace process – the Palestinians, Israelis and Americans – are not on good terms these days. Tel Aviv has been acting unilaterally in Gaza and the West Bank in response to U.S. policies, especially on Iran. Netanyahu challenged Washington in his Congress speech last month, and threatened that if re-elected he would reject Palestinian statehood.

Nothing has been put forward to push the peace process forward. The Palestinians’ ICC membership was meant to show that they have winning cards in their hands, and that they can act unilaterally, as Netanyahu is acting. Nonetheless, this is a big blow to Israel.


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Raed Omari is a Jordanian journalist, political analyst, parliamentary affairs expert, and commentator on local and regional political affairs. His writing focuses on the Arab Spring, press freedoms, Islamist groups, emerging economies, climate change, natural disasters, agriculture, the environment and social media. He is a writer for The Jordan Times, and contributes to Al Arabiya English. He can be reached via raed_omari1977@yahoo.com, or on Twitter @RaedAlOmari2

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.