The Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) has said it is taking a series of measures to begin “disengaging” from Israel, including seeking action against the latter at the United Nations and the International Criminal Court (ICC).
After a long meeting on Saturday evening, the executive committee of the PLO said it had asked the Palestinian government to “begin devising plans to disengage from the Israeli occupation authorities at the political, security, economic and administrative levels …”
According to the official Palestinian news agency, Wafa, the executive committee also decided to form a higher committee to implement decisions such as the suspension of the PLO’s recognition of Israel.
The PLO – an umbrella of major Palestinian political parties – has been under pressure to change its strategy towards Israel in recent weeks.
On December 6, the United States decided to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel – dealing a blow to the Palestinian leadership that has for more than two decades attempted to establish a state on the West Bank and Gaza Strip, with East Jerusalem as the capital.
Last month, the PLO announced it would look into revoking its recognition of Israel until the latter recognises the State of Palestine on those borders.
The statements, however, have been largely vague and non-binding, leading several other Palestinian political parties to disregard and criticise them.
Under the agreements signed between the PLO and Israel in 1993 and 1995 – known as the Oslo Accords– Israel has complete control over the Palestinian economy, civil and security matters in over 60 percent of the West Bank.
The Oslo deals also introduced security coordination between Israel and the Palestinians – a practice that involved sharing intelligence about attacks planned by Palestinians against Israelis.
But while the PLO has on several occasions vowed to end security coordination, it has never done so.
In a press release circulated after the meeting, the PLO said it had decided to request the ICC to “start a judicial inquiry into Israeli settlements, racial discrimination and the ongoing ethnic cleansing…”
The aim, it said, is to “hold Israeli politicians and military and security officials accountable and bring them before international justice”.
While Israel is not a party to the Rome Statute – the treaty of the ICC to which all members are bound to – its nationals could be tried by The Hague-based court for crimes committed on occupied Palestinian territory.
In 2015, the Palestinian government submitted its first file of evidence of Israeli war crimes.
But until now, the ICC has not moved past the “preliminary examination” of the “situation in Palestine”.
In this phase, the prosecutor is meant to determine whether the criteria have been met to warrant pursuing a formal investigation based on the information available publicly or submitted to the office and whether local courts are carrying out credible investigations.
In addition to vows to take Israel to the ICC, the PLO statement said Mahmoud Abbas, the president of the Palestinian Authority, would be speaking at the UN Security Council on February 20 to “reiterate his commitment for a peaceful settlement with Israel”.