Lawyers acting for the Palestinian leadership are preparing to join the International Criminal Court from 1 April, after Mahmoud Abbas signed the Rome Statute in an effort to prosecute Israel for war crimes.
The announcement from UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon comes after the United States, the European Union and the Israeli president all criticised a decision to withhold £83million in tax revenues from the Palestinian Authority. “The statute will enter into force for the State of Palestine on 1 April 2015,” said Mr Ban, after the Palestinian leadership described the withholding of tax receipts as “theft”.
“Freezing the transfer of Palestinian tax funds does not benefit us and does not benefit them,” said Rivlin, in a private meeting that was later reported. “Using these funds, the Palestinians sustain themselves and keep the PA functioning. Israel’s interest is a functioning PA.”
EU and US diplomats also frowned on the move by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (pictured below left), which was widely anticipated. “The decision of the Israeli government to halt the transfer of tax revenues to the Palestinian Authority runs counter to Israel’s obligations under the Paris Protocol,” said EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini.
“An effective Palestinian Authority, committed to non-violence and a peaceful resolution of the conflict, is a key element for a two-state solution.”
US State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said: “We conveyed to the Israelis that freezing the tax revenues is an action that raises tensions… We oppose any actions that raise tensions and we call on both sides to avoid it.”
Israel has frozen Palestinian tax receipts several times in the past, only to release them later. The money helps pay for civil servants and security personnel in the West Bank, with whom Israel cooperates. But with a new Republican-dominated Congress being sworn in this week, the US was widely expected to follow Israel in stemming the flow of money to Ramallah.
Washington did so in 2007, when Hamas took power in Gaza, and again in 2011, after Abbas sought Palestinian statehood at the UN. Last week, both Washington and London criticised Palestinian plans to join the ICC and to press ahead with a renewed statehood bid.