A QUALITATIVE AND BRAVE STEP
“Signing the Rome Statute, applying to join the ICC, preparing for an announcement that specifies the period in which suits will be filed regarding the crimes committed by Israel since June 13th  including the recent Gaza aggression, as well as law suits against the occupation for its settlement activities that represent an ongoing crime for which Israel can be held accountable retroactively and are not subject to a statute of limitations – these all constitute a qualitative brave and admirable step, even though there is no need to express gratitude for fulfilling a duty,” writes Hani al-Masri in the leading Palestinian daily al-Ayyam.Past Palestinian performance did not inspire confidence that this latest step would be taken. The Palestinian president and his aides did not give priority to achieving inter-Palestinian unity. They produced a unilateral draft UN resolution with a low ceiling and without prior national accord. In its last version, the draft resolution even conceded on some national rights on fundamental issues, most importantly on Jerusalem, the borders, and the refugee issues. But someone seeking confrontation and victory must be prepared for that, and putting the Palestinian household in order is the first precondition for victory.It seems that the Palestinian wager was that if the resolution’s ceiling were to be lowered, that would secure European – and particularly French – support, and would also ensure that the U.S. would either back the resolution or abstain or veto it if it obtained the required nine votes. What happened was that this concession led France to vote in favor of the draft resolution even though the French Security Council representative said that his country had voted in favor of the resolution to prevent Palestine from joining the ICC. In other words, France recognized one right at the expense of another.The U.S. has exposed its true position, revealing that it is more Israeli than many Israelis. It did so when it exerted enormous efforts to convince various states not to vote in favor of the resolution, as happened in the case of Nigeria, and after it warned that it would use its veto, regardless of the resolution’s text. Moreover, it deemed the application to join the ICC to be a violation of all red lines. Washington apparently wants the Palestinian negotiators to return to the futile negotiations without any guarantees or prior commitments, which gives Israel full freedom to complete its aggressive, settlement, and racist schemes.Faced with American and European demands, as well as from ‘certain Arab parties’ to postpone its draft resolution till after the Israeli elections, the Palestinian leadership expressed its willingness to consider this if the major European capitals undertook to recognize the Palestinian state should the resolution fail and in case it does not lead to negotiations based on the new terms of reference. But no such undertakings were offered.What the Palestinians were being asked had they complied with the call to postpone was to offer a new opportunity to futile negotiations that would have been used to extend the occupation and expand the settlements without any guarantees or commitments. Had that occurred, it would have destroyed what little remains of the Palestinian leadership’s credibility. The people have lost their confidence in this leadership because of its long pursuit of a deceptive ruse that goes by the name ‘peace process.’Now, we find ourselves in a new situation, whether the Palestinian leadership wants it or not. Now, the leadership will (supposedly) have to behave in a manner different to before that situation emerged. This is because the application to join the ICC will be automatically accepted by the end of the usual time frame (sixty days), which will change the situation radically.The Palestinian leadership will neither be able to retreat nor to stop; were it to do so, it would lose everything. After joining the ICC, the matter will be in the hands of the people and their various forces, and their legal and human rights organizations in particular. The ICC is the court for individuals, the court of those who have no court. For this reason, the leadership will not be in charge of what will happen; every Palestinian would be able to file a suit and ask for the trial of Israeli leaders and individuals for the crimes they have committed. And this may have a retroactive application that goes back to the time when the ICC was formed in July 2002, and may include settlement activities that are an ongoing crime that is not subject to any statute of limitations according to the ICC’s law.Moreover, the application to join the ICC will represent a deterrent that may restrain Israel from committing crimes in the future. To realize the extent of the change that has been wrought, we should consider the implications of the petition presented by hundreds of soldiers to the Israeli government, expressing their fear of being put on trial for the crimes they have committed in the recent savage aggression on the Gaza Strip.The above explains the American and Israeli anger, threats, and measures, despite the Israeli claims that they can also file suits against Palestinian leaders. But Israel is not a member of the ICC; moreover, it is committing all sorts of crimes and will not escape punishment as long as that is within the reach of every Palestinian.The importance of this step would be even greater if it represents the beginning of the Palestinian leadership’s emergence from the cage of the  Oslo Accords – even though it may be a tardy and unsure step that came only as a reaction. It would bear fruit if coupled with a comprehensive and complete vision whose main title is a review of the previous experience and a change in the rules that have governed the Palestinian/Israeli conflict, at least since the signing of the Oslo Accords and till now.But although internationalization of the Palestinian cause and the application to join the ICC and other international institutions represent a qualitative step, they are insufficient, despite their importance, unless coupled with other steps. These begin by giving priority to ending the inter-Palestinian split, regaining unity, activating the Palestinians’ leadership framework, the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) and other institutions, preparing for elections at all levels, and reconsidering the commitments stemming from the Oslo Accords.The required strategies also include consolidating the human presence and steadfastness on Palestine’s land; organizing an all-out and multi-dimensional boycott; setting the implementation of international resolutions in motion, especially The Hague’s  consultative opinion [on the West Bank Separation Wall] and the  Goldstone Report; and reclaiming the Arab, Islamic, liberation, and human dimensions of the Palestinian cause. That is a cause that relies on its justice and moral superiority, on the presence of half the Palestinian people on their homeland’s soil, and on the Palestinians’ determination to struggle in order to achieve their national rights no matter how dear the sacrifices they will have to make and how long the struggle will continue.A diplomatic strategy by itself is a mere leap into the air. Resistance by itself is resistance for resistance’s sake. What is needed is a resistance that sows and a policy that reaps; for he who does not sow shall not reap.Fears remain because the leadership seems unsure and to be waiting. It intends to put its draft resolution in its old formulation to the vote in the Security Council again, as Foreign Minister Riad al-Maliki has stated. That would be extremely bad, for despite the amendments, this draft still severely compromises the Palestinians’ national rights and was adopted unilaterally without endorsement by the legitimate institutions or the various factions, including Fateh.There is no escaping the need to radically alter the rules of the game. In particular, we should not return to the U.S.-sponsored bilateral negotiations, even if held under fake international cover. The path forward is known, and it begins by achieving national unity on patriotic, democratic, and real partnership bases. It passes through a struggle to change the balance of power. And it ends in negotiations within the framework of an international conference with full powers and in continuous session, based on international law and UN resolutions, and with the participation of all regional and international parties concerned.“Once that happens, negotiations would be held in order to implement international legitimacy’s resolutions, not to discuss the negotiations again,” concludes Masri.