Analysis: The next stop for Palestinians could be global courts

Thu Nov 29, 2012 8:51pm EST
 
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By Joseph Schuman

(Reuters) - The U.N. General Assembly's overwhelming vote to recognize Palestine as a non-member state offers little prospect for greater clout in world politics but it could make a difference in the international courts.

The formal recognition of statehood, even without full U.N. membership, could be enough for the Palestinians to achieve membership at the Hague-based International Criminal Court (ICC), where member states have the power to refer for investigation alleged war crimes or crimes against humanity.

With its upgraded status at the U.N., the Palestinians may now seek to apply to the ICC for membership and authority to file war-crimes charges against the Israeli government and its officials.

That threat of so-called "lawfare" has already prevented some Israeli civilian and military leaders from traveling abroad out of fear they'd be arrested as war criminals.

"Israelis are afraid of being hauled to The Hague," said Robert Malley, the Middle East program director for the International Crisis Group.

The Palestinians have long planned to use non-membership statehood at the U.N., once obtained, as a way to enter the ICC. One Palestinian negotiator, in talking to the International Crisis Group, called the strategy a "legal or diplomatic intifada" against Israel.

When Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas addressed the United Nations in September he specifically accused Israel of committing war crimes.

Israeli officials have said the country's armed forces strictly adhere to international law and argue the true aim of Palestinians' accusations is to isolate Israel.   Continued...

 
People wave Palestinian flags during a rally in the West Bank city of Nablus, supporting the resolution that would change the Palestinian Authority's United Nations observer status from "entity" to "non-member state" November 29, 2012. REUTERS/Abed Omar Qusini