As PA officials threaten to apply for membership in the International Criminal Court and UN agencies if there is no progress in peace talks with Israel, an Israel-based law center is preparing indictments against Palestinians officials for potential prosecution in the ICC.
Shurat HaDin, which pursues legal action on behalf of terror victims, prepared a series of indictments, also known as communications, alleging that senior Fatah and Hamas officials, including Hamas prime minister in Gaza Ismail Haniyeh, are liable for terrorism against Israeli civilians.
Shurat HaDin founder Nitsana Darshan-Leitner told The Times of Israel Sunday that a senior Israeli minister approached the center last week asking it to accelerate its preparation of communications against Palestinian officials, an indication that at least some ministers see the legal avenue as a strategic front in the struggle with the Palestinians now that talks look doomed to fail.
“They understand that the Palestinians will have one tool when the negotiations will break down, which is not launching a third intifada, but using the legal tools, using lawfare, against Israel,” Darshan-Leitner said. “The main threat of this legal lawsuit is going to the ICC and indicting Israel for war crimes.”
Since the Israeli government withdrew from the ICC in 2002 after joining it for a short period, it cannot bring a suit in the court. NGOs like Shurat HaDin, however, do enjoy standing in the ICC.
“We believe that proposed indictments of these types are the only means of deterring the Palestinians from rushing out and joining the ICC in order to indict Israelis for crimes against humanity,” said Darshan-Leitner.
“Many Israeli politicians are talking about going after the Palestinians in the ICC but they have no understanding of the complex filing requirements and structure required to realistically attempt to bring the Palestinian leaders to trial in the ICC for their role in the terrorist attacks against Israelis.”
Shurat Hadin has been working with Israeli terror victims for the past year to prepare complaints in the ICC.
In a surprise move last Tuesday, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas resumed a campaign for further international recognition of a state of Palestine, signing applications for the Palestinians to join 15 international treaties and conventions.
Riyad Mansour, PA ambassador to the UN, told a news conference last Wednesday that the 15 international conventions the Palestinians are seeking to join were just a first group, and more could follow depending on Israel’s actions.
The Palestinians had promised to suspend such efforts during nine months of peace negotiations with Israel, which are scheduled to end on April 29, but Mansour said Israel failed to release Palestinian prisoners as promised, drawing the move.