IAF uses white phosphorus in air strike during Operation Cast Lead
Gazans flee an Israeli air strike in Beit Lahiya during Operation Cast Lead on January 17, 2009. Photo by AFP
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IDF Spokesman
IDF soldiers in Gaza during Operation Cast Lead. Photo by IDF Spokesman

The International Criminal Court prosecutor announced Tuesday that he has rejected a bid by the Palestinian Authority to have the war crimes tribunal investigate Israeli conduct during 'Operation Cast Lead' in Gaza.

The reason for his decision was that under the ICC's founding treaty, the Rome Statute, only internationally recognized states can join the court.

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In an official statement released Tuesday afternoon, the ICC said that "the current status granted to Palestine by the United Nations General Assembly is that of “observer”, not as a “Non‐member State”," and that only "relevant bodies at the United Nations" or the group of states that make up the court could determine whether Palestinians can sign up to the Rome Statute.

"[T]he Office has assessed that it is for the relevant bodies at the United Nations or the Assembly of States Parties to make the legal determination whether Palestine qualifies as a State for the purpose of acceding to the Rome Statute and thereby enabling the exercise of jurisdiction by the Court," the statement said. "The Rome Statute provides no authority for the Office of the Prosecutor to adopt a method to define the term “State”".

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The ICC explained that "Palestine has been recognized as a State in bilateral relations by more than 130 governments and by certain international organisations, including United Nation bodies. However, the current status granted to Palestine by the United Nations General Assembly is that of “observer”, not as a “Non‐member State”."

In the future, the statement continued, the ICC could "consider allegations of crimes committed in Palestine, should competent organs of the United Nations or eventually the Assembly of States Parties resolve the legal issue" regarding Palestine's membership status.

The bid was made in 2009, when Palestinian Justice Minister Ali Khashan sent a letter to the ICC saying the PA recognizes the court's authority to deliberate "the actions taken in the Palestinian territories from July 1."

Following the PA's request, the ICC's prosecutor began looking into the possibility of an investigation. During the discussions, Arab League representatives submitted a report to the ICC alleging war crimes committed by Israel during Cast Lead. In July 2011, the PA submitted its appeal in writing to the ICC.

Read this article in Hebrew.