PA hopes ceasefire will yield restart of peace talks

Officials push for int’l conference, concerned that a truce without a renewal of negotiations will damage future diplomatic efforts

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

The Palestinian Authority is trying to promote the idea of convening an international peace summit between the Israelis and the Palestinians that would take place in conjunction with a ceasefire in the Gaza Strip.

The PA is requesting that a ceasefire agreement provide not only for the cessation of hostilities, but also include a number of measures that would restart the stalled peace process, senior Palestinian officials told The Times of Israel on Monday.

Aside from convening an international summit that would include representatives from the PA, Israel, Arab states and other actors, the Palestinian proposal includes a number of other provisions: transferring authority over the Rafah border crossing between Gaza and Egypt to the PA (specifically President Mahmoud Abbas’s presidential guard); deploying PA forces along the Philadelphi Route on the border between the Gaza Strip and the Sinai Peninsula (from which Israel withdrew in September 2005, and which has since been under the control of the Egyptian army); releasing those Hamas members (approximately 50) who were re-arrested by Israeli security forces in recent weeks after being released in the 2011 prisoner exchange deal to free kidnapped IDF soldier Gilad Shalit; and increasing Palestinian control of the Erez Crossing between Israel and the northern Gaza Strip.

The PA is concerned that a ceasefire deal that does not stipulate the renewal of the peace process will harm the chances of resuming negotiations in the future, which explains the numerous messages relayed between Ramallah and those states involved in negotiating a ceasefire, including the US, Egypt and Qatar.

Abbas’s aides have hinted that in a scenario that does not include a resumption of negotiations, the Palestinian Authority will return to unilaterally seeking full membership in international bodies, including the International Criminal Court in The Hague.

According to the same Palestinian sources, Israel’s Justice Minister Tzipi Livni has advocated for some of these proposals.

Livni has also facilitated communication between Israel and those involved in brokering a ceasefire, which she believes must include both the neutralization of Hamas’s ability to manufacture and obtain missiles and rockets, and relaxing restrictions along Gaza’s borders in order to strengthen Abbas’s presence.

Last week, the Palestinian representative at the UN’s Human Rights Council told Palestinian TV that the PA could face charges of crimes against humanity if it joined the International Criminal Court.

“Each and every missile being launched against Israel is a crime against humanity, whether it hits or misses, because it is directed at civilian targets,” Ibrahim Khreisheh told Palestinian Authority TV, according to MEMRI.

While Palestinians had a good case against Israel for committing war crimes in the West Bank under the Fourth Geneva Convention, Israel maintains the better argument with regards to crimes against humanity, he said.

“Targeting civilians, whether one or a thousand, is considered a crime against humanity,” he said, noting the difference between Israel, which strikes civilian targets after having warned residents to evacuate their homes, and the Palestinians, who give no such notice.

In May, a group of 17 Palestinian and international human rights organizations appealed to Abbas to join the ICC, arguing that it would make both sides of the conflict accountable under international law. The PA, recognized as a UN General Assembly “nonmember observer state” in November 2012, could request ICC jurisdiction by acceding to the Court’s Rome Statute.

Palestinian officials including chief negotiator Saeb Erekat and PLO member Hanan Ashrawi have called for more robust Palestinian action against Israel in the international arena, criticizing Abbas for neglecting the matter.

But Khreisheh, the UN representative, said that such calls were “emotional” and ill-advised. “Before speaking emotionally about applying to the ICC, one requires proper knowledge,” he said.

Hamas has scathingly denounced a number of PA officials for criticizing its missile launches into Israel. Moussa Abu Marzouk, deputy director of Hamas’s political wing, called PA Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki “Netanyahu’s foreign minister” on July 11 for saying it was Israel’s right to defend itself against Hamas rockets. Hamas has also attacked Abbas for calling the Islamic movement “war profiteers.”

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