Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas' recent grand gesture in front of the cameras, asking to join 14 international treaties and conventions, could open him and other Palestinian officials up to prosecution for war crimes, according to one Israeli lawyer.
Last year, Mordechai Zivin filed a complaint against Abbas and senior members of Hamas at the International Criminal Court in The Hague. In a formal response, The Hague told Zivin that his complaint could only be discussed when the courts had the authority to discuss it – in other words, if and when Abbas submitted a complaint against Israelis.
Now, however, Israel fears that the Palestinian president is indeed considering such a move, in particular by signing up for the Geneva Conventions, which govern the rules of war and military occupation.
The Palestinian Authority signed letters of accession to the international treaties after Israel failed to carry out the fourth round of a pre-agreed release of long-term Palestinian prisoners held in its jails.
Israel had opposed the move, arguing that there is no universally recognized Palestinian state, and that it would only complicate the already shaky ongoing peace talks.
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But Switzerland's Foreign Ministry, as the depositary of the Geneva Conventions, said last week that "the State of Palestine" had acceded to the conventions effective April 2
Zivin argues that Abbas is personally responsible for terror attacks resulting in the murder of innocent civilians, and he should therefore be tried in an international court.
He found legal grounds for naming Abbas personally responsible after the Palestinian Authority was granted the status of "Observer State" in the UN, and Abbas registered himself as that nation's leader.
As the head of that Observer State, Zivin argues that Abbas is therefore responsible for what occurs under the jurisdiction of the Palestinian Authority – including terror attacks emanating from the West Bank or Gaza.
"The international court is a domain in which we can fight against terror, and we can't sideline it," Zivin said this week.
"For years Palestinian organizations have been carrying out deadly terrorist activities, which constitute war crimes and crimes against humanity, and cause thousands of casualties among innocent civilians," he said.
"Ironically, its actually Palestinian terrorist organizations who are using the International Criminal Court against senior Israel politicians and officers."