Will the Palestinians Take Israel to the ICC? Probably Not.

When the latest round of conflict between Israel and Hamas comes to an end, will the Palestinians turn again to international institutions to confront Israel? More specifically, having applied to 15 UN agencies and international treaties in April, will the PA now apply to the International Criminal Court?

Ever since Palestine secured “non-Member Observer State” status at the United Nations General Assembly in 2012, that option has been open to President Mahmoud Abbas. It would be a popular move among many ordinary Palestinians and Western human rights activists. In May, 17 groups, including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, implored the Palestinians to prosecute Israel at the International Criminal Court. “Twenty years of peace talks have brought neither peace nor justice,” said Joe Stork, of Human Rights Watch.

But in an astonishing admission this week, the Palestinian representative to the UN Human Rights Council, Ambassador Ibrahim Khraishi, suggested that things are not so simple. (Watch the YouTube clip here.)

Speaking on July 9th to Palestinian Authority TV, Khraishi told a very blunt and very inconvenient truth: the rockets fired from Gaza toward Israel are “each and every one a crime against humanity whether it hits or misses, because it is directed at civilian targets.” While he argued that settlements were also a crime against humanity, he challenged the idea that ICC prosecutions would be a one-way street. Noting that he was not a candidate in any elections, and so he could speak the truth, he went on:

Many of our people in Gaza appeared on TV and said that the Israelis warned them to evacuate their homes before the bombardment. In such a case, if someone is killed, the law considers it a mistake rather than an intentional killing because [the Israelis] followed the legal procedures. As for the missiles launched from our side, we never warn anyone about where these missiles are about to fall or about the operations we carry out.

He concluded with a plea: “people should know more before they talk emotionally about appealing to the ICC.”


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