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Palestine's Bid to Join International Criminal Court Sparks Ire from Israel

New wave of tensions surrounding Palestine's ambitions to join ICC and try Israel for war crimes, results in the freezing of $127 million in much-needed taxes to Palestinian territories.
Photo by Jim Hollander/AP

Palestinian officials' aspirations to join the International Criminal Court has ignited a new wave of tensions with Israel, whose prime minister vehemently opposes the move.

Israel is now withholding $127 million in tax money from the Palestinians. Meanwhile, the Palestinian Authority has posted threatening online images of Israel's president with a noose hanging next to him.

Palestinian officials submitted documents Friday to join the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC) and other international treaties, which could allow the world court to try Israeli officials for war crimes. A spokesperson for the UN said the paperwork was "being reviewed with a view to determining the appropriate next steps."


Palestine also requested retroactive justice for last summer's seven-week war in the Gaza strip, which killed more than 2,100 Palestinians, mostly civilians. Some 67 Israeli soldiers and 6 Israeli civilians also died in the conflict.

"This is a very significant step," Riyad Mansour, the UN's chief Palestinian observer, told Reuters. "It is an option that we are seeking in order to seek justice for all the victims that have been killed by Israel, the occupying power."

UN Security Council rejects Palestinian resolution to end Israel's Occupation. Read more here.

Amb Mansour delivering docs relating to accession of 16 int'l conventions & treaties including Rome Statute of — State of Palestine (@Palestine_UN)January 3, 2015

Within hours of the submission, members of Fatah, the political party of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, posted online images of Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu next to a noose, claiming he'd be put to death for Israeli war infractions.

Fatah: Netanyahu to be hanged at the ICC — Pal Media Watch (@palwatch)January 4, 2015

A senior Israeli official told Haaretz over the weekend that the government decided to withhold $127 million in VAT and customs duties it collects on goods destined to the Palestinian territories that travel through Israel.

"The funds for the month of December were due to be transferred on Friday, but it was decided to halt the transfer as part of the response to the Palestinian move," the official said, referring to the bid to join the ICC.


'We Have No Money For Food Let Alone a New Home': Marooned Gazans Await Help After Summer Conflict. Read more here.

Saeb Erekat, chief negotiator for the Palestine Liberation Organization, told Al Jazeera the withholding of these revenues, which constitute two-thirds of the Palestinian Authority's yearly budget before foreign aid, would devastate residents, and that it demonstrated Israel was fearful of justice for its crimes.

"Israel collects our customs and our taxes for us, so when they withhold these funds, it means that this month people will not be able to pay for their schools, hospitals, medical supplies, milk and bread," he said.

"They [Israelis] are trying to suffocate the whole [Palestinian] nation," he added. "It shows that when it comes to enforcing collective punishment, they are punishing four million Palestinians, starving them, because they want to act with impunity."

Human Rights Watch and other rights groups encouraged Abbas to go to the ICC over "crimes committed on Palestinian territory," in a letter earlier this year.

"Taking such steps could ensure access to international justice for victims of war crimes and crimes against humanity committed on Palestinian territories," the organizations wrote in the letter, "and would send an important message that such crimes cannot be committed with impunity."

The Palestinian Authority also recently submitted a UN resolution requesting that Israel leave the occupied territories by 2017, but the draft resolution failed to pass in the Security Council last month. The document received 8 support votes — just one short of approval, which would have forced an expected veto from the US.

Abbas said Sunday he was considering giving the draft resolution a second go this year, as it would possibly benefit from new, more sympathetic council members.

Israeli and Palestinian Tensions Linger Beneath Bethlehem's Veneer of Christmas Cheer. Read more here.

VICE News' Samuel Oakford contributed reporting to this article.

Follow Meredith Hoffman on Twitter: @merhoffman