Palestinian Foreign Affairs Minister Riad Al-Malki

“The Palestinians continue to exploit the Court for political purposes,” rather than “resuming the peace process,” Israel charged. 

By: Max Gelber, United with Israel 

Israel rejected the Palestinians’ latest demand for an inquiry into alleged war crimes as “a cynical step without legal validity.” Among the actions the Palestinians characterize as Israeli “war crimes” is the establishment of Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria

Specifically, Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad al-Malki on Tuesday called on the International Criminal Court (ICC) to open an immediate investigation into crimes allegedly committed through “Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories.”

Al-Malki met ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda at The Hague to hand over the request.

The Palestinian Foreign Ministry described the referral as “an important and historic step towards justice for the Palestinian people, who continue to suffer from ongoing, widespread and systematic crimes.”

“Given the gravity and intensification of crimes committed in the territory of the State of Palestine and the impunity with which Israeli officials and other citizens commit those crimes, it has become necessary for the State of Palestine to take this step,” the Palestinian Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

The Palestinians allege that “Israel’s settlement regime is the single most dangerous threat to Palestinian lives, livelihoods, and national rights. Israel maintains, expands, and protects the settlement regime by committing war crimes, crimes against humanity, and the crime of apartheid against the Palestinian people.”

The Palestinians alleged that Israel’s crimes include the “forcible transfer of Palestinians, unlawful killings, illegal appropriation of land and property, the demolition of Palestinian homes and other properties, repression of dissent through unlawful killing of peaceful protesters, as well as the policy of mass arbitrary detention and torture.”

“This is a test the International Criminal Court cannot afford to fail,” the Palestinians added.

Palestinians Exploit the ICC for Political Gains

Israel responded to the Palestinian’s belligerence at the ICC as “a cynical step without legal validity.”

Israel charged the Palestinians with continuing “to exploit the Court for political purposes,” rather than “resuming the peace process with Israel.”

“It is absurd that the Palestinian actions vis-à-vis the Court come at a time when the Palestinians continue to incite to acts of terrorism, while exploiting women and children as human shields for violent attacks against the security of Israel’s citizens,” Israel added, referring to recent riots on the Gaza border.

The Israel Foreign Ministry noted that the referral is “legally invalid,” as the ICC lacks jurisdiction over the Israeli-Palestinian issue, Israel is not a member of the Court, and finally, the Palestinian Authority is not a state.

“Israel expects the ICC and its Prosecutor not to yield to Palestinian pressure, and stand firm against continued Palestinian efforts to politicize the Court and to derail it from its mandate,” the foreign ministry stated.

Israel underscored that it acts in accordance with “independent and thorough judicial review mechanisms, befitting a democratic state, and in accordance with international law.”

The ICC does not have jurisdiction over the State of Israel, which, like the US, is not a signatory to the Treaty of Rome. However, the ICC could prosecute Israeli citizens, including members of the IDF, for alleged war crimes committed on Palestinian territory.

Since becoming a member of the ICC in 2015, the Palestinians have repeatedly appealed to the body to take action against Israel as part of its campaign to wage diplomatic warfare at international forums against the Jewish state. These moves are also among the unilateral steps taken by the Palestinian Authority to achieve de facto statehood without making peace with Israel.