Abbas Seeks to Join ICC Following Failed Palestinian UN Bid

Netanyahu vows to take steps in response, saying the Palestinian Authority - who sits with Hamas in a unity government – should be the one to fear the International Criminal Court; U.S.: Move is counterproductive.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas addresses the 69th Session of the UN General Assembly on September 26, 2014 in New York.AFP

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas signed 22 international agreements on Wednesday, following the failure of the Palestinian proposal at the United Nations Security Council.

The agreements Abbas signed include the Rome Statute, the founding treaty of the International Criminal Court. The move brings the Palestinians a step closer toward joining the world's permanent war crimes tribunal, which will allow them to file complaints against Israelis they accuse of violating international law or committing war crimes or crimes against humanity.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed to take steps in response to Abbas' move, saying it is the Palestinian Authority that should fear the ICC since it is "in a unity government with Hamas, a declared terrorist organization who like ISIS commits war crimes." A senior Israeli official said Netanyahu will hold a meeting on Thursday to discuss Israel's response.

Netanyahu added that Israel will act "to protect soldiers of the IDF – the most moral army in the world." "We will deflect this further attempt to impose us with dictates just as we deflected the Palestinian [proposal] at the UN Security Council," he said.

Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said that Abbas "can sign any treaty he wants; the only ones committing war crimes in this conflict are the Palestinians themselves, who are responsible for murderous terrorism against babies, children, women and men, indiscriminately, for the past 100 years." Writing on his Facebook page, Lieberman said that "even a deaf, blind and dumb judge knows this, so Abbas better not threaten us, the country with the most moral army in the world."

The U.S. State Department said in a statement that Abbas' move "is counterproductive and we strongly oppose it. It does nothing to advance statehood aspirations."

Economy Minister Naftali Bennett said that Abbas, "the biggest inciters to terror, can only get to the court as a defendant."

Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid also denounced the Palestinian president's signing of the Rome Stature, saying that Abbas has made "a huge mistake." "It is the Palestinians and their terror organizations who commit war crimes … the IDF is the most moral army in the world and its soldiers and commanders do everything in their power to prevent harming innocents."

It's worth noting that signing the Rome Statute does not automatically mean membership in the International Criminal Court, a process that can take several months. Even if the Palestinian Authority becomes a member, its complaints must be examined by the Hague court's prosecution, which must decide whether each complaint falls within the court's jurisdiction and whether there is sufficient reason to open an investigation or file an indictment. Joining the ICC would also make
it possible for other countries to accuse the Palestinians of war crimes such as firing rockets on a civilian population.

Earlier Wednesday, the Palestinian leadership held an emergency meeting in Ramallah, where Abbas came under heavy pressure to sign the documents necessary for joining certain international organizations.

"We strongly believe that diplomacy, including accession to treaties and international organizations is a right for the Palestinian people. Proceeding the meeting, we will announce our immediate future steps," chief negotiator Saeb Erekat said in a statement.

On Tuesday a Palestinian proposal calling for peace with Israel within a year and an end to the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories by late 2017 failed to pass a UN Security Council vote.