Palestinian Envoy: If UN Rejects Occupation Deadline, We'll Join International Criminal Court

United States expected to veto Palestinian bid for date for Israeli withdrawal at UN Security Council; Joining the court would enable the Palestinians to sue key Israelis for war crimes.

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Palestinian UN observer Riyad Mansour speaks to reporters following a closed-door meeting of the Council at the United Nations, Wednesday, Nov. 14, 2012.
Palestinian UN observer Riyad Mansour speaks to reporters following a closed-door meeting of the Council at the United Nations, Wednesday, Nov. 14, 2012.Credit: AP

The Palestinian ambassador to the United Nations said Thursday that his government will join the International Criminal Court if the UN Security Council refuses to set a deadline for Israel to withdraw from all Palestinian territory.

Joining the court would enable the Palestinians to pursue war crimes charges against key Israelis.

Riyad Mansour also told The Associated Press that if the council shuts the "door to peace," the Palestinians will keep seeking new doors, including holding an international conference leading to Palestinian independence.

At the same time, senior Palestinian Authority officials said U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry will meet Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Cairo later this month to hear if he has any new proposals on the peace process. Kerry is due in Egypt on October 12 for the donors' conference on reconstructing the Gaza Strip.

At this point, the Palestinians fully intend to proceed with asking the UN Security Council to recognize a state within the 1967 borders and to set a November 2016 deadline to end the occupation, the officials told Haaretz.

A senior Palestinian official said the Authority provides the Americans almost weekly with a detailed report of the continued construction in the West Bank settlements, including East Jerusalem. He said the Authority expects the Obama administration to act against this policy and not make do with denunciations.

Despite the anger and crisis between Jerusalem and Washington over the construction in the settlements, the official said "we understand the United States will veto Abbas' initiative in the Security Council."

But if the United States really wants to advance a peace process, "it must act in the spirit of the initiative [calling to end the occupation by November 2016] and get Israel to recognize the '67 borders," he told Haaretz.

The circulation of the draft resolution to Security Council members follows Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas' announcement to the UN General Assembly last Friday that he would ask the council to set a deadline for a pullout and dictate the ground rules for any talks with Israel.

The Palestinian quest for Security Council action follows the failure of U.S.-brokered peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians led by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, and the recent 50-day war between Israel and Hamas. More than 2,100 Palestinians were killed in Gaza, the vast majority civilians according to the UN, while 66 Israeli soldiers and six civilians in Israel were killed.

The draft resolution, obtained Wednesday by The Associated Press, would affirm the Security Council's determination to contribute to attaining a peaceful solution that ends the occupation "without delay" and fulfill the vision of two states - "an independent, sovereign, democratic, contiguous and viable state of Palestine" living side by side with Israel in peace and security in borders based on those before the 1967 Mideast war.

The draft calls for intensified efforts, including through negotiations, to reach a peaceful settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and "a just resolution" of the status of Jerusalem as the capital of two states and of the Palestinian refugee problem.

Its key provision calls for "the full withdrawal of Israel, the occupying power, from all of the Palestinian territory occupied since 1967, including East Jerusalem, as rapidly as possible and to be fully completed within a specified timeframe, not to exceed November 2016, and the achievement of the independence and sovereignty of the state of Palestine and the right to self-determination of the Palestinian people."

The Palestinians already have the status of an observer state at the United Nations. But they are likely to face an uphill struggle in the UN's most powerful body where the United States, Israel's closest ally, has veto power and has used it to block many Palestinian-related resolutions.

U.S. Ambassador Samantha Power, asked Tuesday about Abbas' call for a deadline, said: "We strongly believe that the only way of a negotiated solution is through negotiations between the two parties."

Israel's UN Ambassador Ron Prosor said that by pursuing this draft resolution, "once again, the Palestinians are shooting in all directions, missing the real target."

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