Palestinians may soon have a new weapon in their arsenal against Israel – the International Criminal Court at the Hague. Palestinian Authority Foreign Minister Riad Malki said Palestinians may turn to the Court to stop Israeli construction on land Israel acquired in 1967, especially on a controversial piece of land on the outskirts of eastern Jerusalem called E-1.
“If Israel would like to go further by implementing the E-1 plan and the other related plans around Jerusalem then yes, we will be going to the ICC,” he said referring to the International Criminal Court. “We have no other choice. It depends on the Israeli decision.”
Israeli officials quickly responded.
“Israel continues to propose the immediate resumption of direct peace talks with no preconditions whatsoever,” government spokesman Mark Regev told The Media Line. “If the Palestinians choose the path of unilateral provocative steps they will be acting to undermine any chance of moving forward.”
The Palestinians’ ability to appeal to the court comes after the United Nations General Assembly upgraded “Palestine” to a non-member observer state in November. In retaliation, Israel announced a series of punitive measures, including dusting off plans to build in E-1, a corridor of land between eastern Jerusalem and the large Jewish community of Ma’ale Adumim
Palestinians say building there would make a contiguous Palestinian state almost impossible and impede movement from Ramallah in the north to Bethlehem in the south. The international community has also sharply criticized the planned Israeli construction.
The International Criminal Court prosecutes charges of genocide, war crimes and other human rights violations. “Palestine” would first have to apply to join the court and then, if accepted, charge Israel.
The ICC has already ruled that the barrier that Israel is building in and around the West Bank, which Israel calls a “security barrier” and Palestinians call a “wall” is illegal. The Court ruled that Israel confiscated Palestinian property to build the barrier and that it impedes freedom of movement. The ICC decision is not binding and Israel has continued building.
“Even if the decision on the wall or E-1 is not applied it sets an important precedent,” Saleh Abd al-Jawad, a Palestinian historian at Birzeit University, told The Media Line. “I think it is a good idea, even if it is a dream that anything will change.”
Malki spoke after the UN Security Council held a special session on Israeli construction in the “West Bank” – the first discussion since the Palestinian UN upgrade. The name plate for the Palestinian delegation read “State of Palestine,” a moniker attacked by US Ambassador to the United Nations, Susan Rice.
“Any reference to the ‘State of Palestine’ in the United Nations…do not reflect acquiescence that ‘Palestine’ is a state,” she said.
There have been almost no negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority for several years. But some analysts say that now that President Obama is beginning a second term, he may push for a renewal of talks.