Israel preparing indictment to take Abbas to the Hague for war crimes

Published April 6th, 2014 - 09:15 GMT

Israel is threatening to haul Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas before the International Criminal Court in The Hague on charges of war crimes, Economy Minister Naftali Bennett told Army Radio on Sunday.

“We are currently preparing an indictment for war crimes against [Abbas] based on two rationales,” Bennett said. “The first is the daily cash transfers to Hamas, which is firing missiles on Israeli citizens, and the second is the direct financing of murderous terrorists themselves.”

In order for the ICC to try the Palestinian leader, Israel would first need to formally join. Only then would it be able to lodge a complaint with the ICC prosecutor, who would need to decide whether to launch an investigation.

Responding to recent developments, Shurat Hadin – Israel Law Center said that although it has been doing serious case-intensive work on potential International Criminal Court (ICC) complaints against the Palestinians for a long time, the issue was now "becoming a game for politicians, with less background on the issue, yelling slogans."

The NGO added that some politicians have been raising allegations against the Palestinians for crimes which the ICC does not even handle or which would not be taken seriously by the ICC.

In contrast, Shurat Hadin said it used a Facebook campaign since April 2013 to gather serious allegations for potential concrete complaints against Palestinian leaders to the ICC.

Bennett’s statements come just as the United States is immersed in desperate efforts to resuscitate the negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians, which appear to be on the verge of collapse following Ramallah’s decision last week to apply for membership in over a dozen international agencies.  

US envoy Martin Indyk is due to meet with Israelis and Palestinian negotiating teams on Sunday as part of an intense effort to salvage the disintegrating peace talks.

In an effort to rescue the situation, Indyk dramatically increased his efforts, holding a meeting on Wednesday with Justice Minister Tzipi Livni and Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat. He met with Thursday with Livni and on Friday with Erekat. US Secretary of State John Kerry, who was in Israel at the beginning of the week, spoke on the phone on Thursday night with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. He has since spoken again with Netanyahu.

Erekat told Army Radio on Sunday that there are grave doubts on the Palestinian side that the Netanyahu government is serious about seeking a two-state agreement.

“Can the Israeli government specify to me what the conditions are for negotiations?” Erekat said. “Ask the prime minister, ask the defense minister of any other minister, ‘When you meet with the Palestinians, what do you want to gain?’”

Bennett said that the negotiations broke down due to Abbas' refusal to recognize Israel as a Jewish state. In an interview with Israel Radio, he lamented Livni's statements on Saturday accusing Housing MInister Uri Ariel of sabotaging the negotiations by announcing new buildings plans over the Green Line.

On her Facebook page, Livni urged Israelis to act with caution even during times when the Palestinians take provocative steps.

“While we may have criticism of the Palestinians, we need to understand that even when we are right and take right decisions, construction in the settlements renders us the guilty party,” the justice minister wrote. “It’s permissible to get angry over this, but it is also possible – and even preferable – to understand and to act accordingly.”

While Livni has been challenging many of Bennett's public statements regarding the Palestinians, her office had no comment on his ICC statements. 

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