Palestinians to Put Settlements in Focus at War Crimes Court

Palestinian leaders plan to ask a war crimes tribunal in two months to prosecute Israel for building settlements, leaving charges from last year’s war in the Gaza Strip for later, Foreign Minister Riad Malki said.

The calculation, Malki said Tuesday in an interview at his office in the West Bank city of Ramallah, is that dealing with settlements as a violation of the Geneva Convention will produce a conviction sooner. That strategy also wouldn’t expose the Palestinian leadership to reciprocal charges over the launching of rockets into Israeli civilian areas over the past decade.

“It’s a very clear case and it’s not bi-directional,” he said. “They would only investigate the Israeli side.”

Frustrated that more than two decades of peacemaking hasn’t yielded them a state, the Palestinians embarked on a diplomatic campaign that included Dec. 31 action to join the International Criminal Court, a war crimes tribunal located in The Hague, Netherlands. The move enraged Israel and dealt a further blow to a peace process that stalled almost a year ago.

Prosecutors at the International Criminal Court are due April 1 to issue a list of war crimes charges that may be leveled against Israel. Malki meets with the chief prosecutor, Fatou BenSouda, next week to put forth the settlements-first plan.

Stalled Peacemaking

Malki said frustration over stalled peacemaking may also lead the Palestinian Authority to soon curtail 22 years of coordination between its security forces and Israel’s. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s decision to cut off some $100 million in monthly customs duties and fees collected on behalf of the authority “is forcing the collapse of the system” of Palestinian self-government, he said. “What do you expect us to do?”

The United Nations Human Rights Council separately named Mary McGowan Davis, a former New York state judge, as head of its panel investigating possible war crimes from the 50-day Gaza confrontation, the Geneva-based agency said in a press release.

Davis replaces William Schabas, who resigned Monday after Israel produced information showing he had served as a paid consultant to the Palestinian Authority.

Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal.