Israel is looking not only to bring Palestinian officials before the dock for war crimes but also to freeze more than $127 million in tax revenue, a planned monthly transfer the Palestinians need to run their government, Reuters reported. The move came one day after the Palestinian Authority submitted an application to join the International Criminal Court and other global organizations. But Palestinians say Israel’s actions only legitimize their bid to join the ICC and their related claims of war crimes.
“The funds for the month of December were due to pass on Friday, but it was decided to half the transfer as part of the response to the Palestinian move,” an Israeli official told Haaretz Saturday. “So, in regards to the international arena, we will not only defend ourselves against the Palestinians’ actions, we will also go on the offensive. And when it comes to war crimes, we have quite a bit of ammunition -- the butter is smeared all over the heads of [Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud] Abbas and his friends. They chose to go out into the sun, and there will be a price for that.”
Saeb Erekat, chief negotiator for the Palestine Liberation Organization, told Al Jazeera that Israel is intimidated by the move. “Israel collects our customs and our taxes for us so then when they withhold these funds it means that this month people will not be able to pay the schools, the hospitals, the medical supplies, the milk and bread, so they are trying to suffocate the whole nation,” Erekat told Al Jazeera Saturday. “It shows that when it comes to enforcing collective punishment, they are punishing four million Palestinians, starving them, because they want to act with impunity. This shows the legitimacy of what we are doing in the ICC.”
Palestinian Ambassador to the United Nations Riyad Mansour delivered documents to U.N. headquarters Friday to become a signatory to 22 international treaties, including the ICC, in the hope of pursuing war-crimes charges and achieving “justice for all the victims that have been killed by Israel, the occupying power,” Reuters reported.
It takes 90 days to join the ICC, which looks at cases of severe war crimes and crimes against humanity, such as genocide, according to Haaretz. Abbas signed the documents Wednesday, one day after the U.N. Security Council rejected a Palestinian resolution demanding statehood and for Israel to withdrawal from its territory.
More than 2,100 Palestinians, 67 Israeli soldiers and six Israeli civilians were killed during Israel’s 50-day war against Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip last summer. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Abbas’ bid to join the Hague-based ICC would only expose him and other Palestinian officials to prosecution over their support for the militant Islamist group. “We will take steps in response and defend Israel’s soldiers,” Reuters quoted Netanyahu as saying in a statement.
U.S. President Barack Obama has supported an eventual independent Palestinian state next to Israel, but he has suggested unilateral steps -- such as joining the ICC -- have hindered the peace process, as Reuters reported. Israeli-Palestinian peace talks crumbled after the Palestinian Authority forged a unity deal in April with Hamas, which is deemed a terrorist organization by Israel and the U.S.