Abbas said close to deciding on ICC war crimes probe

PA president says US, Israeli pressure won’t prevent international bid; PA FM warns Israel will ‘regret this golden time it wasted’

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas (photo credit: Issam Rimawi/Flash90)
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas (photo credit: Issam Rimawi/Flash90)

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said Monday the Palestinians would soon decide whether to lodge a complaint against Israel in the International Criminal Court and other UN institutions in November, the Palestinian Ma’an News Agency reported.

En route to New York for the UN General Assembly, the PA president insisted that US and Israeli pressure would not deter the Palestinians from the move.

Abbas has debated for months whether to join the court, a step that would transform his relations with Israel from tense to openly hostile and could also strain his ties with the United States.

Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki added that the Palestinian factions could sign the Rome Statute to join the ICC before the end of the year, and warned Israel would “regret” that it had not reached an accord directly with the Palestinians.

“Israel will regret this golden time it wasted because of its stubbornness, boastfulness and the need to satisfy right-wing parties,” al-Maliki said.

The PA repeatedly threatened in past weeks to take Israel to the ICC and try it for war crimes, but have yet to grant the international court the jurisdiction to launch the investigation.

On the issue of the reconstruction of the Gaza Strip, Abbas referred to the October 12 conference scheduled to discuss the issue, and said: “if the PA will be able to return to Gaza, the airport and the seaport will be top priorities.”

“Reconstruction of Gaza is possible through the national consensus government and through cooperation between Hamas and the Palestine Liberation Organization, and this cooperation must be agreed on quickly between the delegations of Hamas and Fatah to Cairo,” Abbas said. The PA’s remarks came as rival factions Fatah and Hamas were meeting in Cairo, ahead of the resumption of ceasefire talks with Israel, beginning Tuesday.

Abbas was slated to meet with Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi at the UN summit, and is expected to discuss with him the situation in Gaza and the possible opening of the Rafah Crossing between Gaza and Egypt.

Since the start of the Gaza war, Abbas has come under growing domestic pressure to pave the way for a possible war crimes investigation of Israel. Last month, he told senior PLO officials and leaders of smaller political groups he would only go ahead if Hamas supports the bid. Hamas later signed a pledge to back any Palestinian bid to join the ICC, according to two senior officials in the group.

The decision by Hamas to sign a document in support of a court bid removes a major obstacle, though it’s not clear if Abbas now will go ahead. A hesitant Abbas has said he would not make any decision without the written backing of all Palestinian factions. In July, he obtained such support from all factions in the Palestine Liberation Organization.

If Abbas were to turn to the court, Hamas could be investigated for indiscriminate rocket fire at Israel since 2000. Israel could come under scrutiny for its actions in the current Gaza war as well as decades of settlement building on war-won lands the Palestinians seek for a state.

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