Sharif Nashashibi, who has worked closely with the Prime Ministers's office of the Palestinian Authority, believes it is time the PA was called to account on time wasting and avoidable delays in taking Israel to the International Criminal Court (ICC), and points out how the Authority is wilfully impeding progress
"Israel is forcing us to go to international Criminal Court," said Nabil Shaath, an aide to Mahmoud Abbas, president of the Palestinian Authority. Israel is "pushing us to accelerate our recourse" to the ICC, said Mohammed Shtayyeh, the PA's special envoy for the successful bid to upgrade Palestine's status at the UN in November 2012.
These statements were made the following month, and there have since been numerous similar ones from other PA officials. Yet almost one and a half years since the UN upgrade to non member observer state, which enabled Palestine to join the ICC, the PA has yet to apply. It was handed a potent weapon against Israel's decades of illegal dispossession, occupation, colonisation and oppression, but it has chosen not to wield it.
This is a shameful dereliction of the PA's duty to realise Palestinians' human rights and national aspirations. ICC accession was the biggest prize of the upgraded UN status, and the primary reason for the vociferous opposition to the bid from Israel and the US. What, then, was the point of upgrading if the PA has not utilised its greatest benefit?
In February this year, I put this to chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Frekat on the Al Jazeera English programme Head to Head, during which he repeatedly expressed the need to "hold Israel to account" through "international mechanisms." His reply surprised me: "You're absolutely right. A mistake was made by us."
A price not worth paying
Erekat--an architect of the deeply flawed and failed Oslo process--said he took personal responsibility for delaying ICC accession by nine months in return for the release by Israel of 104 prisoners. He then contradicted himself by saying the prisoners "deserve" the deal's "heavy price"--hardly admitting that he made a mistake.
What Palestinian prisoners held by Israel deserve is to be free, not to be moved from one jail to a larger one called the occupied Palestinian territories. Besides, the means to address the freedom of millions of people from foreign military rule was held back for the release of a small fraction of the thousands of prisoners held by Israel, which then announced major settlement expansion. A "heavy price" indeed, but not one worth paying, particularly since Israel has subsequently arrested far more Palestinians than released. I then pressed Erekat to announce a date for ICC application, since he admitted it was a mistake not to have done so already. He dodged my questioning, but when later...