UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said Wednesday that Palestine will join the International Criminal Court on April 1, a high-stakes move that will enable the Palestinians to pursue war-crimes charges against Israel.
The Palestinians submitted the documents ratifying the Rome Statute that established the court on Friday, the last formal step to becoming a member of the world’s permanent war crimes tribunal.
The move followed the Palestinians’ failure to win a UN Security Council majority for a resolution imposing a three-year time limit for a full Israeli withdrawal to the pre-1967 lines in the West Bank and Jerusalem.
In a statement posted on the UN’s treaty website, the secretary-general said “the statute will enter into force for the State of Palestine on April 1, 2015.” He said he was acting as the “depositary” for the documents of ratification.
The Palestinian move has drawn threats of retaliation from Israel and is strongly opposed by the US as an obstacle to reaching an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal.
On Tuesday Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Palestinian moves to apply for membership at the International Criminal Court and to seek statehood unilaterally via the UN had pushed the prospects of peace off the table, rendering the prospects of Palestinian statehood irrelevant for the time being.
Speaking to Israel’s Channel 2 News, Netanyahu also discounted the likelihood that he would evacuate West Bank settlements in his next term if reelected, saying the Palestinians had made it impossible to reach a peace deal.
“I don’t see [evacuating settlers] as practical at the moment because any territory we vacate will be grabbed… I don’t see it happening,” he said.
He indicated that he wanted an accommodation with the Palestinians in principle, but that a two-state solution was impractical for now, given the Palestinians’ strategy.
Netanyahu said last week that Palestinian leaders were the ones who should be prosecuted in the ICC over their unification with rival faction Hamas. “It is the Palestinian Authority leaders – who have allied with the war criminals of Hamas – who must be called to account,” he said. “IDF soldiers will continue to protect the State of Israel with determination and strength, and just as they are protecting us we will protect them, with the same determination and strength.”