ICC may be far from the Palestinian Israeli conflict
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu - YOUM7 (Archive)

CAIRO:  Israel has agreed to extend a ceasefire that ended a month of fighting in Gaza beyond a Friday deadline, an Israeli official said on Wednesday, speaking on condition of anonymity, according to The Jerusalem Post.

The operation on the Gaza Strip left 1,865 Palestinians dead and 9,470 injured according to the Palestinian Health Ministry, while the Israeli Army spokesperson announced Friday that the death toll for Israeli soldiers had reached 61.

Last week, the United Nations launched an inquiry into human right violations and crimes alleged to have been committed by Israel during its offensive, given the far higher toll of civilian deaths and destruction on the Palestinian side, Reuters reported.

Israel said it did its utmost to avoid civilian casualties in Gaza but accused Hamas of putting its people in harm’s way by launching rockets from within densely populated districts.

Last Tuesday, Palestinian Foreign Minister Riad al-Malki visited The Hague and, according to Reuters, said that the Palestinian Authority (PA) wanted to give the International Criminal Court (ICC) jurisdiction to investigate alleged crimes by both sides in the Gaza Strip.

Earlier in May and before the Israeli operation on Gaza, a group of 17 Palestinian and international human rights groups, including Human Rights Watch told the Palestinian Authority to move to the International Criminal Court (ICC) in a letter to Prisedent Mahmoud Abbas, the Human Rights Watch website reported.

Joe Stork, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch said the argument that moving to the International Criminal Court (ICC) from the Palestinian side would harm peace talks has no meaning because 20 years of talks have brought neither peace nor justice to victims of war crimes, according to the HRW’s report.

The letter to Abbas explains that the ICC’s jurisdiction would cover serious crimes under international law committed on or from Palestine, such as torture and indiscriminate attacks on civilians, whether committed by armed groups or the Israeli army, according to the statement.

The ICC’s statute also classifies the direct or indirect transfer of civilians by an occupying power into occupied territory as a war crime, and that might describe the Israeli government facilitating the transfer of its citizens to the settlements.

Since 2009, when Benjamin Netanyahu became Israel’s Prime Minister, Israel began construction in more than 9480 settlements and in the same period, Israeli demolitions left more than 4,600 Palestinians homeless, according to a report by KUNA.

The Palestinian Foreign Minister pointed to possible complications by saying this could go ahead only with the cooperation of Hamas, which is shunned by the West as a designated terrorist group, the report added.

Analysts say Hamas was unlikely to agree to ICC membership if it meant the possibility of its leaders being prosecuted in The Hague for what they consider legitimate defense against Israeli occupation. Hamas regards all of Israel as well as Palestinian territories as occupied land, unlike the PA which seeks a state on land – the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem – captured by the Jewish state in a 1967 war, Reuters reported.

By joining the court, the Palestinian territories would automatically expose themselves to war crimes both committed by adversaries and by themselves within their borders.

A senior Israeli official who asked not to be identified told Reuters that any ICC legal action against Israel over Gaza would prompt an Israeli counter-suit at the ICC against the Palestinians.

As Palestine and Israel are not members in the ICC, Gaza is outside its jurisdiction, but after Palestine became an observer state in the United Nations since November 2012, the PA can take an ICC action through the U.N Council.

Ibrahim Khraishi, ambassador of the Palestinian observing mission to the U.N. in Geneva said Monday to Al-Jazeera that a decision issued by the Human Rights Council of the United Nations on July called for forming a committee to investigate the facts in Gaza, but it was refused by the United States.

“The US, Israel and others who are pressuring Palestine not to seek the ICC’s jurisdiction cannot credibly argue that continued impunity for serious international crimes will help bring the conflict to an end,” Stork said.

Palestinians tried the ICC solution after Palestine became an observer state in the United Nations, but in 2009 there was another way.

Till 2011, anyone in Britain could request a warrant from a judge, after 2008’s war on Gaza, pro-Palestinian activist groups in 2009 sought an arrest warrant against Tzipi Livni over her role in Operation Cast Lead at the time that she was serving as Foreign Minister, the court that issued the arrest warrant for Livni annulled it upon discovering she was not in Britain at that time. Livni had in fact canceled a planned visit to the U.K. upon learning she could be arrested.

In 2011, Livini arrived to London in her first visit to the U.K. since 2009 after an amendment to British law that prevents private citizens from seeking arrest warrants against Israeli officials in Great Britain, according to Haaretz.

With Israel blaming Hamas for starting the violence and refusing fruitful negotiations, Palestinian authorities stepping in and mediating the problem could potentially reach diplomatic solutions, former U.S. President Jimmy Carter wrote in a Tuesday article in The Guardian.

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