United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said that the state of Palestine will become a member of the International Criminal Court on April 1, a move that will allow the Palestinian Authority to pursue war crimes charges against Israel. The U.N. chief announced his acceptance of the Palestinian application to the international body in a statement on the U.N.'s treaty website late Tuesday, reported the Associated Press.
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas submitted documents ratifying the court’s founding Rome Statute last Friday, in the last formal step toward accepting the jurisdiction of world’s only permanent war crimes tribunal, said the AP. The high-stakes move came a day after the U.N. Security Council rejected a resolution that would have set a three-year deadline to establish a sovereign Palestinian state with Israel withdrawing to its 1967 borders.
Abbas has long threatened to join the ICC but only followed through with it amid mounting domestic pressure due to a lack of progress in negotiations with Israel. The move is part of a broader Palestinian strategy to pressure Israel through international institutions rather than at the negotiating table.
Membership to the ICC is no guarantee that the Palestinian side will actually be able to pursue war crimes charges against Israel. Abbas would have to convince the chief prosecutor that the Palestinian Authority has a winnable set of evidence against Israel, according to Reuters. Israel would also likely challenge the court’s jurisdiction at every stage of the process, from the assessment of the case to investigation to a full trial, as well as the admissibility of evidence.
Israel has already responded to the ICC bid by freezing $125 million in Palestinian tax revenue, which it collects on Palestine's behalf, and is currently weighing more steps to punish the Palestinians for their international efforts, reported VOA. One Israeli official said that his government would “switch from defense to attack mode” and could file lawsuits against Abbas and other Palestinian officials.
The ICC move could also have an impact on U.S. aid to the Palestinian Authority. The U.S. said Monday that it would review its annual $440 million aid package to the Palestinians, reported the AP.