OPINION | The ICC Factor and Israeli-Palestinian Conflict by Marianna Karakoulaki

OPINION | The ICC Factor and Israeli-Palestinian Conflict by Marianna Karakoulaki


Remaining true to his statements, the Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas applied and gained membership at the International Criminal Court (ICC) making Palestine the 123rd signatory of the Rome Treaty. The ICC bid came after a predefined bid for statehood at the UN Security Council in early December 2014, which was vetoed by the US. This move was seen as a more direct attempt to re-ignite the Palestinian issue which reached stalemate since the US-led peace talks collapsed in 2014. In return to the ICC bid, Israel withheld the transfer of Palestinian tax money to the Palestinian Authority as a punitive measure.

OPINION | The ICC Factor and Israeli-Palestinian Conflict by Marianna Karakoulaki

Image Attribute: The International Criminal Court in The Hague, Netherlands (Vincent van Zeijst/Wikimedia Commons)

Although Palestine formally joined the ICC in April 2015, there were the two flaming issues that the Palestinian Authority was said to push. The first was the issue of the Israeli settlements in the West Bank. The current Israeli government has been following an expansionist policy in the Palestinian Territories in pursuit of the full control of the areas as well as the full isolation of Gaza. Additionally, the Israeli Prime Minister has used the Israeli settlements as a blackmailing tool every time the Palestinian Authority is actively pushing for the recognition of the Palestinian State. In September 2014, Israel announced one of the largest expansions in recent years which was strongly criticized by both the US and the UK.

A Palestinian official who spoke to the Times of Israel said that the illegal Israeli settlements will be the first issue to be brought to the ICC as the confiscation of Palestinian land is a clear violation of international law. Although over the years the UN has criticized Israel over its policies towards the Palestinians, the USA’s veto power at the Security Council is blocking any efforts for progress. Should the Palestinian Authority bring the case of settlements to the ICC it will have yet another diplomatic tool on its side in order to pursue statehood. Even though Israel has not ratified the Rome Treaty, such a move will bring pressure as it will bring the issue of the settlements to the forefront of any future peace negotiations.

The second issue was raised by the Palestinian Authority through the submission of it's first case to ICC in June 2015 by bringing latter's attention to the conflict in Gaza which cost the lives of more than 2,000 Palestinians. Fatou Bensouda the prosecutor of ICC opened a preliminary examination over the situation in Palestine over crimes committed “in the occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem, since June 13, 2014.” Although the preliminary examination does not guarantee that the Court will proceed to an investigation of war crimes, it means however, the at least the recent Gaza war will be considered. The ICC though will not seek to investigate the State of Israel but the crimes committed by individuals which is still an important step towards justice. However, The United States is not a member of the ICC, and many U.S. lawmakers have criticized the Palestinians' action as detrimental to hopes for peace with Israel.

Elections in Israel

Even though a surprising move, the timing of the Palestinian bid was thought to be coincidental as Israel is went on an elections mode. On 17 March Israel held early elections for the 20th Knesset and the polls did not look too positive for Likud, Binyamin Netanyahu’s party at that moment. The coalition formed by the Isaac Herzog’s Labour Party and Tzipi Livni’s Hatnua, were slightly ahead of the Likud, but eventually failed to break the Likud’s dominance.  Should the Livni-Herzog’s centre-left coalition has managed to break Likud’s dominance, the balances concerning the Palestinian issue would have changed. 

The incumbent Prime Minister of Israel at that time, Benjamin Netanyahu of Likud, declared victory in the election with Likud picking up the highest number of votes. President Reuven Rivlin granted Netanyahu an extension until 6 May 2015 to build a coalition when one had not been finalized in the first four weeks of negotiations. He formed a coalition government within two hours of the midnight May 6 deadline.His Likud party formed the coalition with the Jewish Home, United Torah Judaism, Kulanu, and Shas, with the bare minimum 61 seats.

Netanyahu has always held a rather stubborn policy towards the Palestinians – one that retains Israel’s dominance over the West Bank. Any peace process attempts made thus far have failed mainly because the Israeli administration is not willing to back down and is persistently pursuing aggressive policies such as declaring Israel as a Jewish State. On the other hand, the newly formed centre left coalition was expected not to give up on everything Israel has gained throughout years of occupation either, they supported negotiations with the Palestinian Authority nonetheless and as Livni said, she is willing to freeze settlements at least in major blocs.

Abbas’ ICC move was considered to be a formidable decision as it could had lead to the polarization of the Israeli public during the elections, but he eventually submitted his resignation on August 22, 2015, killing all the speculations associated with post election scenarios. This also happened especially when Palestinian Authority did not take a clear stance against the violence by individuals against Israeli citizens.

A Bold Move but a Right Decision

If someone looks at the way the Palestinian issue is developing, the ICC was and is the only way to move forward and seek justice and accountability for crimes committed in recent years. The Palestinian Authority, finally realizing that the UN route is a dead end, and seeing that it is gaining more and more international support, surprised the actors of the conflict with a rather bold move. Even without being a signatory of the Rome Treaty, Israel might possibly find itself in the same position some of the world’s most wanted criminals. Whilst Israel is not new to scrutiny, international pressure might make its government – current or future – rethink its policies and re-evaluate its approach towards the Palestinian issue.


Regardless the way Palestinians will utilize their new membership, it will definitely be at their advantage as it will not only put pressure to Israel but to all those involved in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The ICC might not have the diplomatic ability or power it should, yet the way it will treat the Palestinian issue will most probably determine the future of the peace process as all sides will have to re-evaluate their approaches.

About The Author:

Marianna Karakoulaki is a freelance journalist and editor. She holds an MA in International Relations (Security) from the University of Birmingham, UK, and a BA in Mediterranean Studies with a major in International Relations and Organisations, from the University of the Aegean, Greece. She is Director of the editorial board and the Articles Editor at E-International Relations a columnist at Athens Views, and Vocal International. Her main research interests include Gender Studies and Feminist Theory, International Security, USA Politics, the Middle East, and Peace and Conflict Studies. You can follow her on Twitter @Faloulah. For her personal webpage visit: Apolitical Discourses

This article was originally published at THE GW POST under Creative Commons License and modified by the IndraStra Global Editorial Team as per current time-line of events.

the barcode printer: free barcode generator
    Blogger Comment
    Facebook Comment