The Palestinian Authority formally became a member of the International Criminal Court on Wednesday, with a low-key ceremony at the court’s headquarters marking the contentious move.
“The Oslo Accords are dead, although a death certificate has yet to be issued,” Fatah Central Committee Abu Gharbieh told the Palestinian daily Al-Quds. “We will resort to international boycotts and sanctions and popular resistance [against Israel].”
Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Emmanuel Nachshon denounced the ICC’s acceptance of the Palestinians as members on legal as well as moral grounds.
“The Palestinian Authority government, which has established a partnership with the murderous Hamas terrorist organization that carries out war crimes like those carried out by Islamic State, is the last one that can threaten to file claims in the international court in the Hague,” he said.
Furthermore, the entity referred to as “Palestine” has no right to join the court because there is no Palestinian state in accordance with international law, Nachshon said.
He characterized the decision as “political, cynical and hypocritical,” and which contradicts the goal of the court to provide redress for victims of the worst crimes and atrocities in the world.
Palestinian participation in the court, Nachshon predicted, will lead to a “destructive politicization” that will undermine its legitimacy and effectiveness.
Israel and the United States have strongly opposed the move as an evasion of direct peace negotiations and a violation of the Oslo Accords.
Palestinians signed the court’s founding treaty in January and Palestinian membership came into force Wednesday.
Israel is not a member of the ICC, but the country’s military and civilian leaders could now face charges if they are believed to have committed crimes on Palestinian territory. Israel had no immediate comment Wednesday.
ICC Prosecution spokeswoman Florence Olara said there are “no timelines” for how long a preliminary examination of Palestinian allegations against Israel can take. Some have taken months, others are continuing after years.
The prosecutors will likely focus initially on last year’s Gaza conflict, but could also look at the issue of Israeli building in Yehudah and Shomron, considered illegal by much of the world.
However, prosecutors in The Hague do not have jurisdiction over events that happened before the Palestinians joined the court.