PA President Mahmoud Abbas has carried out his long-term threat to join the International Criminal Court, but it may may take years before anything concrete comes of it.
The decision, to be formalized in the next 2-3 months, opens the way for war crimes charges to be brought against Israel, and equally opens the Palestinians up to war crimes charges by Israel.
But, as Carsten Stahn, a professor of international criminal law and global justice at Leiden University in the Netherlands, points out, war crimes charges are far from cut-or-dried or simple to make.
“If you include all … appeals and challenges, a case could take close to a decade at least,” said Stahn.
For Abbas, who has been in power since 2005 and turns 80 in March, a decade is a long time, and in any case the expectation was always that an independent state would happen before then.
As a result, joining the ICC looks designed more to rattle Israel, and show the U.S. and others that the Palestinians will not wait forever to achieve the long-desired political outcome.
It also amounts to Abbas trying to show that he is still relevant as his popularity wanes and support for Hamas rises, said Grant Rumley, an expert in Palestinian politics at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies in Washington.