Middle East Monitor / January 23, 2020
As expected, the International Criminal Court has cranked its bureaucratic delays into motion over the proposed investigation into Israeli war crimes. The ICC’s Chief Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda’s statement was deemed to be “too long and exceeded the amount of pages allowed for filing” such a proposal. This has been cited despite a request for an extension of page length due to “the unique and complex factual and legal circumstances in this situation.”
Bensouda now has to file a new request, upon which judges are allocated 120 days to reach a decision about opening an investigation. For Israel, the delay is a first step in its campaign to discredit not just the ICC, which has attracted its fair share of criticism over the years, but also, and most importantly, to remove the possibility that the state will, at long last, face international accountability for its actions.
There are already weaknesses in Bensouda’s approach, as reported by the Jerusalem Post. So far, she has been indecisive about whether or not the Israel Defence Forces (IDF) will be investigated for war crimes, despite their obvious involvement. The war crimes charge about illegal settlements is also limited; those built on stolen Palestinian land before 2014 will be exempted from the investigation.
While Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is rallying the international community against the ICC, with some countries following his lead in criticising Bensouda’s decision, the Palestinian Authority has remained largely silent. The Israeli government has attempted to slander the ICC’s possible investigation as “a full frontal attack on democracies, both on the democracies’ right to defend themselves, and on Israel’s right, the Jewish people’s right, to live in their ancestral homeland, the Land of Israel.” According to Netanyahu, the international community should target the ICC and its officials with sanctions. This threat is unlikely to happen, but it highlights the discrepancy between Israeli lobbying and the PA’s silence.
Having fulfilled its duty and submitted its claim to the ICC, the PA’s attention remains focused on the moribund two-state compromise. The discussion on how both this paradigm and the absence of its fruition have contributed to Israel’s war crimes trajectory is not a priority for the PA, despite the fact that the Oslo Accords, for example, as well as the international community’s defence of Israel’s security narrative, have contributed to war crimes against the Palestinian people.
As far as PA leader Mahmoud Abbas is concerned, it is as if Europe has played no role in facilitating Israeli war crimes, as long as it continues to position itself as the prime interlocutor of the two-state “solution”. In his latest meeting with French President Emmanuel Macron, Abbas reiterated that Europe’s tenacity to preserve the two-state paradigm gives “hope to our people of the possibility of achieving peace and stability.” The ICC simply wasn’t on Abbas’s discussion agenda.
The current delay does not bode well for the Palestinians. Since the international community decided to support Israel’s colonial project, they have been forced to stand by and watch as recognition of their rights is kept as remote as ever. That the ICC deems it suitable to stall a process in which Israel can be scrutinised judicially should be a cause of concern to the PA, as it stands alongside international responsibility for contributing to the plight of Palestine and its people.
Ramona Wadi is an independent researcher, freelance journalist, book reviewer and blogger; her writing covers a range of themes in relation to Palestine, Chile and Latin America