Skip to main content

Palestinians press for key UN resolution by year-end

Palestinians to join ICC if US vetoes UN resolution on Israeli withdrawal timetable, meanwhile ICC to recognise Palestine as observer state
Senior Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat addresses the media in the West Bank city of Ramallah on 19 May, 2011 (AFP)

The Palestinians are seeking a UN resolution by year-end that would set a timetable for Israel's withdrawal from occupied Palestinian territory, chief negotiator Saeb Erakat said Tuesday.

Erakat said the Palestinians hoped the US would not veto the resolution, but that if it did, "president (Mahmud) Abbas will be signing immediately 22 conventions," ensuring Palestinian membership of the International Criminal Court (ICC), through which it has threatened to sue Israel for alleged war crimes.

Erakat's remarks came after several European parliaments pressed their governments to recognise full Palestinian statehood, and as prospects for a resumption of peace talks with Israel looked bleak.

"We are at the (UN) Security Council now, today. We are continuing our consultation. We want a Security Council resolution that will preserve the two-state solution," Erakat told foreign journalists gathered near the West Bank city of Bethlehem.

"We want a specific time frame to end the occupation.

"We're being helped a great deal in the Security Council by many nations," he added, referring to recent votes of British, French and Spanish MPs in favour of recognising Palestine as a state.

"We are hoping to achieve this resolution before the end of the month, before Christmas as a matter of fact."

The Palestinians have been pressing Security Council members to adopt a resolution giving a timeframe -- two years -- for the withdrawal of Israel from occupied Palestinian territory.

The United States has reiterated its opposition to what it sees as unilateral Palestinian measures that bypass peace talks with Israel.

But talks do not look set to resume, having collapsed in a round of recriminations in April despite a concerted diplomatic drive by US Secretary of State John Kerry.

Fatah hails ICC's 'observer state' upgrade for Palestine

Meanwhile, Palestinian negotiator and Fatah leader Mohamed Shtayyeh said that Tuesday's decision by the ICC to recognise Palestine as an observer state would pave the way for the Palestinian Authority (PA)'s pursuit of an internationally-recognised Palestinian state.

"We are taking a step-by-step approach towards the [PA's] plan to internationalize the Palestinian cause," Shtayyeh, who is also a leading member of the PA President Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah movement, told The Anadolu Agency.

The 122-member ICC, based in The Hague, has upgraded Palestine from an "observer entity" to an "observer state."

The move advances Palestine's position towards a full membership at the court, which would allow the Palestinian Authority to sue Israel for war crimes and other violations committed in the occupied territories.

According to Shtayyeh, the upgrade would also have a "positive impact" on a December 18 vote by the European Parliament to recognise a State of Palestine.

"The Palestinian leadership is pursuing foreign parliaments, governments as well as international organizations in order to recognise the state of Palestine so we could obtain our rights," he said.

Israeli officials warn against Palestinian ICC membership

The PA would be "playing with fire" if it decides to pursue full membership at the ICC, Israeli political sources told Israel's daily Yediot Ahronot.

"If the Palestinians continue the process of becoming a full member, they're playing with fire," one source told Yediot Ahronot. "Then they will be vulnerable to suits by Israel for the PA's involvement in terror attacks and its responsibility for rockets launched from its territory."

The source described the ICC's upgrade, as a "procedural, technical change." However, Riyad Mansour, the permanent Palestine observer at the UN, described the move as "another victory for the Palestinians on the international arena."

Mansour told reporters in New York that the ICC's upgrade "brings Palestinians closer to reclaim their rights by paving the way for the Israeli occupation leaders to be brought to [trial] so that all Palestinian victims' souls could finally rest in peace."

The ICC looks into accusations of war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide committed on the territories of its member states.

The court is also mandated to handle cases submitted by the UN Security Council.

Several Palestinian factions have urged Abbas to file for full ICC membership in order to bring Israel to the international court following a devastating Israeli offensive on the Gaza Strip this summer.

The offensive, launched with the stated aim of ending rocket fire form the blockaded coastal enclave, left more than 2,160 Palestinians – mostly civilians – dead and some 11,000 injured as well as thousands of homes destroyed.

At least 73 Israelis – 68 soldiers and five civilians – were also killed during the offensive, which finally ended on August 26 with a cease-fire deal reached in Cairo after 51 days of bombardments.