Palestinians Can’t Sue Israel, so says the International Criminal Court

by Gedalyah Reback

That is, if there is a Palestine.

Mahmoud Abbas was metaphorically hit in the face today because the International Criminal Court refused to accept the Palestinian Authority’s right to stand in court because it wasn’t a recognized state. The Palestinians had asked the court in 2009 to investigate Israeli war crimes during Operation Cast Lead. Only the UN or a “recognized state” can be allowed to bring a case or demand investigations into violations of international law.

Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch are floored. But they should have seen it coming. The suit by the Authority would have overturned the understandings of international law that exist today. If the Palestinian Authority could bring claims, then any institution claiming jurisdiction over an area could be welcome to the court. It’s an extreme idea, but certain states do exist and function with much greater independence and ability than the Palestinian Authority – (Turkish) Northern Cyprus, (Armenian) Nagorno-Karabakh or the Somaliland state in the extremely failed state of Somalia. Fewer countries recognize those countries’ independence than that of the Palestinians, but they presumably would also be able to enter the court.

Back to the UN

The ICC left it to the UN to upgrade the Palestinian Authority’s status through the General Assembly or have it recognized as a bonafide, member state via the Security Council. Otherwise, it is merely an “observer” and not a so-called “non-member state.”

This doesn’t give Israel’s government much more time though than it had before. Abbas wants to go back to the UN and get his vote for recognition. The parameters have been set, and now Abbas knows what he needs in order to bring Israel to international court, where the bias might be heavily stacked in the Palestinians’ favor.

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