Palestinian Authority Foreign Minister Riad Malki declared Wednesday that the Palestinians would have “no choice” but to complain to the International Criminal Court if Israel proceeded with plans to build housing on land the Palestinians want for a future state.
Speaking to reporters after a meeting of the U.N. Security Council on the Middle East, Malki said his government’s decision would largely depend on what Israel did with the so-called E1 area between Jerusalem and Maaleh Adumim.
“If Israel would like to go further by implementing the E1 plan and the other related plans around Jerusalem, then yes, we would be going to the International Criminal Court,” Malki said. “We would have no other choice. It depends on the Israeli decision. Israel knows our position very well.”
The Palestinians have previously suggested that bringing their various disputes with Israel to The Hague-based court was an option, but Malki’s remarks on Wednesday were the most direct threat his government has made to date.
The International Criminal Court prosecutes charges of genocide, war crimes and other major human rights violations. The Palestinians must first apply to join the court, and once a member, they could refer Israel for investigation.
The Palestinians became eligible to join the court after the U.N. General Assembly upgraded the Palestinians’ status in November from “observer entity” to “nonmember state,” a move that was widely seen as a de facto recognition of an independent Palestinian state.
E1 covers some 12 square kilometers (4.6 square miles) and is considered particularly important because it not only juts into the narrow “waist” of the West Bank, but also backs onto east Jerusalem, where Palestinians want to establish their capital.
U.N. Special Coordinator of the Middle East Peace Process Robert Serry told the 15-nation Security Council that settlement expansion was a violation of international law and “increasingly an obstacle to peace.” But he also warned the Palestinians against pursuing international action.
The council meeting on the Middle East represented its first public debate on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict since the Palestinian U.N. status upgrade. Malki and a number of council members referred to the “State of Palestine” in their speeches.
The words “State of Palestine” were also emblazoned on the name plate for the Palestinian delegation.
U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice made clear to the council that such public references to the “State of Palestine” did not make it a sovereign state.
“Any reference to the ‘State of Palestine’ in the United Nations, including the use of the term ‘State of Palestine’ on the placard in the Security Council or the use of the term ‘State of Palestine’ in the invitation … do not reflect acquiescence that ‘Palestine’ is a state,” she said. “Only direct negotiations to settle final status issues will lead to this outcome.”
Canadian Ambassador Guillermo E. Rishchynski also complained later that allowing the Palestinians to sit behind the “State of Palestine” nameplate “creates a misleading impression” and said Canada would oppose the Palestinians’ attempts to upgrade their status in symbolic ways.
The U.S., Israel and seven other members of the 193-nation General Assembly voted against the Palestinian U.N. status upgrade in November.