The Palestinians on Monday officially became observers at the summit meeting of the 122 countries that are members of the International Criminal Court, a move they say is a step toward joining the world’s permanent war crimes tribunal.
But Israel belittled the move as a “technical and administrative step” void of any real significance.
“We are not talking here about an upgrade,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Emmanuel Nachshon said. “There is no substance” to it.
In fact, the ICC noted that the observer status will have no bearing on any action the court’s judicial body might take on the matter in the future.
But the Palestinians were making the most of it. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has threatened to seek membership in the ICC in order to press charges against Israel for alleged war crimes. Israel has been preparing its own case against the Palestinians in response.
The Palestinian United Nations ambassador, Riyad Mansour, said his government is moving in that direction “but that’s another step in that process,” and the timing will be decided by Abbas.
The Palestinians’ official acceptance as an observer at the two-week meeting came in a procedural move at the opening session of the Assembly of States Parties to the Rome Statute that established the ICC.
Tina Intelmann, the assembly’s outgoing president, read a list of states that have not signed or ratified the statute that requested to participate as observers, including Russia, China, India and the state of Palestine. With a bang of the gavel, all those on the list were approved by consensus.