The Palestinian ambassador to the UN has formally submitted Palestine’s application to join the International Criminal Court to the UN secretary-general.
The Palestinians want to pursue war-crimes charges against Israel and challenge Israeli settlement building.
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The UN confirmed receipt of the documents, and said the next steps were being reviewed. It will take a minimum of 60 days for the request to come into effect.
Speaking at the UN headquarters in New York on Friday, Riyad Mansour said pursuing the war-crimes case was an option that allowed Palestine to “seek justice for all those killed by the Israeli occupier”.
The move came two days after the application for membership of the Hague-based ICC was signed by President Mahmoud Abbas.
“We are honoured that we are to be the 123rd state party to join the ICC, which will become effective about 60 days from now,” Mansour said.
“It is a very significant step which we will be taking. It is a legal option, it is a peaceful option, it is a civilised option and it is an option that anyone who upholds the law should not be afraid of.”
When asked about the possibility of Palestinian leaders, particularly members of Hamas, being pursued for war crimes, Mansour said that the option was “political posturing”.
“We are not afraid of the judgement of the law, especially international law,” he said. There are concerns however the move will draw far-reaching consequences from the United States.
Al Jazeera’s Kristen Saloomey, reporting from the UN, said there was no guarantee the cases requested by Palestine would be investigated.
There is a real threat of cutting aid to PA but also action aimed at the defunding the UN which is frankly a matter of US law
“The ICC gets hundreds of requests each year and doesn’t accept them all, far from it,” she said.
“They are going to request jurisdiction be granted retroactively to the creation of the court in 1998. Whether or not the court will agree we don’t know, this is unchartered territory.
“Only states can join the ICC, and some here do not officially recognise Palestine as a state. The US has been making the case this is going to hurt future negotiations and has described this move as counter productive.
“Palestinians stand to lose $400m in US aid by taking this step.”
A senior State Department official told Reuters on Friday that steps to join the ICC will have implications for US aid to the Palestinian Authority.
“It should come as no surprise that there will be implications for this step, but we continue to review,” the unnamed official said.
Khaled Elgindy, a fellow at the Brookings Institution, said the structure of the new US Congress could have an impact on whether or not Washington cuts aid.
“There are laws on the books essentially stating that any international body that Palestine joins will have to be defunded. So there is pressure from some Republicans to carry through those threats.
“There is a real threat of cutting aid to the Palestinian Authority but also action aimed at the defunding of the UN which is frankly a matter of US law,” Elgindy told Al Jazeera.
Benjamin Netanyahu, Israeli prime minister, has held an emergency meeting with his senior ministers to discuss the move. On Thursday he had urged the ICC not to accept the Palestinian application .