Palestinians Tell ICC That Israeli Annexation Nullifies Oslo Accords

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Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas speaks during the Palestinian leadership meeting at his headquarters in the West Bank city of Ramallah, May 19, 2020.
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas speaks during the Palestinian leadership meeting at his headquarters in the West Bank city of Ramallah, May 19, 2020.Credit: AFP

The Palestinian Authority on Thursday told the International Criminal Court at The Hague that it considers itself exempt from any agreement with Israel and the United States, including the Oslo Accords, due to Israel's plan to annex parts of the West Bank next month. 

The PA released a statement from President Mahmoud Abbas in response to the ICCs request last week for clarification regarding Abbas' recent declaration that he is ending all agreements with Israel and the U.S. This may have ramifications for questions of international jurisdiction in the Palestinian territories.

Abbas's statement, which he originally delivered last month, declares that "if Israel proceeds with annexation, a material breach of the agreements between the two sides, then it will have annulled any remnants of the Oslo Accords and all other agreements concluded between them."

It also declares that Israel’s "persistent violations of these agreements, and its announced plans and measures for annexation, absolve the Palestine Liberation Organization and the State of Palestine from any obligation arising from these agreements, including security."

However, the PA also stressed that Abbas' statements should not be considered part of the legal process at the ICC and that "political" aspects should be avoided in legal proceedings. That is, the authority's legal arguments in the case should not change because of this statement by Abbas.

The Palestinian Authority is also seeking to expedite the case proceedings in light of Israel's annexation promises.

Abbas's announcement last month that the PA would end understandings signed with Israel and the United States in light of the government's plan to annex parts of the West Bank could prove problematic for the PA, as it would have to break down exactly which clauses remain in effect and what it considers to be no longer valid.

The ICC's request for clarification comes as the court takes steps toward opening a probe into alleged Israeli and Hamas war crimes in the Palestinian territories. The court is currently debating whether it has the jurisdiction to address the matter.

The court asked to know the current status of the agreements, in part because Israel's opposition to the investigation includes the claim that the Oslo Accords established that the PA is not a state and that it therefore is not under the ICC's jurisdiction.

In the legal opinion delivered to The Hague regarding the court’s jurisdiction over matters related to Israeli actions in the Palestinian territory, Israel wrote: "Existing Israeli-Palestinian agreements make it clear that the Palestinians have no criminal jurisdiction either in law or in fact over Area C, Jerusalem and Israeli nationals – and thus cannot validly delegate such jurisdiction to the Court.

"It is an elementary legal principle that one cannot delegate that which one does not have, and it would thus take yet another act of implausible 'legal gymnastics' to claim that the Palestinians have criminal jurisdiction of any kind over Israeli nationals that they can delegate to the Court… such jurisdiction is explicitly excluded in the very agreements that established the Palestinian Authority."

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