PA says it’ll drop war crimes suit if settlements frozen

Senior Palestinian official threatens to suspend security cooperation if Israel doesn’t transfer withheld tax money

Avi Issacharoff

Avi Issacharoff, The Times of Israel's Middle East analyst, fills the same role for Walla, the leading portal in Israel. He is also a guest commentator on many different radio shows and current affairs programs on television. Until 2012, he was a reporter and commentator on Arab affairs for the Haaretz newspaper. He also lectures on modern Palestinian history at Tel Aviv University, and is currently writing a script for an action-drama series for the Israeli satellite Television "YES." Born in Jerusalem, he graduated cum laude from Ben Gurion University with a B.A. in Middle Eastern studies and then earned his M.A. from Tel Aviv University on the same subject, also cum laude. A fluent Arabic speaker, Avi was the Middle East Affairs correspondent for Israeli Public Radio covering the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the war in Iraq and the Arab countries between the years 2003-2006. Avi directed and edited short documentary films on Israeli television programs dealing with the Middle East. In 2002 he won the "best reporter" award for the "Israel Radio” for his coverage of the second intifada. In 2004, together with Amos Harel, he wrote "The Seventh War - How we won and why we lost the war with the Palestinians." A year later the book won an award from the Institute for Strategic Studies for containing the best research on security affairs in Israel. In 2008, Issacharoff and Harel published their second book, entitled "34 Days - The Story of the Second Lebanon War," which won the same prize.

Palestinian laborers working at a construction site in the West Bank settlement of Ma'ale Adumim, near Jerusalem, September 16, 2014. (AP/Dan Balilty)
Palestinian laborers working at a construction site in the West Bank settlement of Ma'ale Adumim, near Jerusalem, September 16, 2014. (AP/Dan Balilty)

RAMALLAH — A senior Palestinian official said Sunday that the first subject to be brought before the International Criminal Court at The Hague in the Palestinian Authority’s legal campaign against Israel would be settlement construction.

The official told The Times of Israel that land seizures in occupied territory constituted a clear violation of international law. Still, he noted that the appeal to the ICC would be withdrawn if Israel were to freeze settlement construction, and added that the Palestinian Authority had conveyed to Israel an official message to that effect, through Jordan and Egypt.

The official, a confidant of PA President Mahmoud Abbas, also threatened that security coordination with Israel would be curtailed if Jerusalem failed to transfer Palestinian tax money it has been withholding as a punitive measure over the PA’s ICC bid. “In the first stage [the cessation of security coordination] will entail a stop to arrests made by us,” he said. “We will only arrest those we decide to arrest.”

Under current security arrangements, Palestinian security forces also arrests terror suspects based on intelligence received from Israel.

The official revealed that the PA had established a special judicial committee to examine the issue of turning to The Hague ahead of the date when Palestine will formally join the institution – April 1, 2015.

“We will examine the judicial repercussions of turning [to the court] against Israel,” he said.

The official also said that the PA had asked the court for assurances that Palestinian petitions to the ICC would only be accepted if they were made through the Palestinian delegation at The Hague. This was done to prevent petitions by unofficial Palestinian entities.

On Friday, the ICC’s prosecutor opened an initial probe to see if war crimes have been committed against Palestinians, including during last year’s Gaza conflict.

“Today the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court Fatou Bensouda opened a preliminary examination into the situation in Palestine,” her office said in a statement, adding it may lead to a full-blown investigation. Her decision came after the Palestinians formally applied to join the ICC earlier this month, allowing them to lodge war crimes and crimes against humanity complaints against Israel as of April 2014.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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