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Friday, September 12

Is Abbas A Sellout To Justice For The Palestinians & Palestine
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Intense reactions to come after Abbas withdraws ICC application, analysts #CycleOfViolence Analysts

Analysts expect strong reactions from the Palestinian public and from within the ruling elite if reports of Abbas withdrawing an application to join the ICC are confirmed 

Arwa AB Ibrahim

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ decision to reportedly stop an application to join the International Criminal Court has prompted analysts to foresee negative repercussions, with reports of angry reactions from parts of the Palestinian public emerging.
Abbas withdrew the application six days after it was submitted to The Hague by his own Minister of Justice during Israel’s bombardment of Gaza.
Reports alleged that Abbas’ Minister for Foreign Affairs Riad Maliki disowned the application in a private meeting with the ICC Chief Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda in The Hague on 5 August.
Maliki said he had met the prosecutor to find out what was required for Palestine to get access to the ICC, but also stopped the application process in its tracks.
If these reports are confirmed, Chris Doyle, director of the Council for Arab-British Understanding CAABU says that that there will be widespread disillusionment within Palestinian circles.
“It would be a disappointment to many Palestinians who see the ICC as the only route open to them to seek some form of justice and accountability for what has happened not just during the recent war on Gaza but also regarding the monumental scale of Israeli settlements in the West Bank,” he said.
“The President will have to make quite clear his explanation to Palestinians about this. They will expect at least some evidence of a strategy going forward… [and] that it is actually for something positive to achieve their aspirations,” he added.  
Khaled Gindy, a fellow in the Centre for Middle East Policy at Brookings agrees.
“The Palestinian public clearly doesn’t see things the way Abbas sees them. We already saw Palestinians protest against the Palestinian Authority (PA) in Ramallah and other places in the West Bank,” Gindy said.
“They [the Palestinians] have already been through this with the Goldstone affair a few years ago after operation Cast Lead and the withdrawal of that process was hugely unpopular.”
In 2009 Richard Goldstone, the judge who chaired the controversial UN inquiry into Israel’s attack on Gaza from December 2008 - also known as Operation Cast Lead - reported that Israel had committed war crimes and possibly crimes against humanity by intentionally targeting the civilian population. Goldstone later retracted some of the central conclusions of his earlier report.
Since the latest Israeli war, protests against the Palestinian Authority and Israel have broken out and spread across the West Bank.  
“If reports are confirmed, this will trigger very negative responses, even from within Abbas’s own leadership circle who may speak out or at least distance themselves from him,” Gindy told MEE.
Members of the Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO) and other Palestinian politicians, including the Palestinian National Initiative Party's Mustafa al-Barghouthi, as well as the PA's diplomatic representative to the United Kingdom Manuel Hassassien all refused to comment on the reports, saying that they have not yet received details about the application process.
However, Barghouthi told MEE that the PA government was due to discuss the reports alongside various other issues, at a meeting scheduled for 7pm local time (1600 GMT).
Several observers have relegated Abbas’s move to tactical considerations in connection with his wider strategy to deliver on promises he has made to the Palestinian people.
“Abbas wants to use this [application to join the ICC] as leverage in case the US and Israel refuse his offers,” said Palestinian journalist Daoud Kuttab.
“There will be no [negative] impact as long as [this move] is part of Abbas’s strategy.”
Brooking’s Gindy, however, insisted that Abbas had no such strategy and that Abbas’s approach of banking on a negotiated settlement with the US leadership that would ultimately deliver Israel, has so far failed.
“The threat to go to the ICC for Mahmoud Abbas has always been tactical. Abbas is not interested in a confrontation with the Israelis, but more importantly he’s not willing to do anything that would jeopardise his relationship with Washington,” said Gindy.
“His strategy is based on an American-led peace process in which the US somehow puts pressure on Israel, which will ultimately lead to a Palestinian state within the 1967 borders plus or minus swaps with Jerusalem as its capital. This is Abbas's only objective,” Gindy told MEE.
But other analysts deemed the reported developments unsurprising, labelling them a reflection of American diplomatic pressure on Abbas.
“The diplomatic pressures Abbas is under are intense; this American administration and its predecessor have made it clear that any attempt to join the ICC would have severe implications for Palestinian-American relations,” said Doyle.
“In combination between the US and the major EU powers, the PA is dependent upon them for aid, salaries, security training as well as a raft of other issues. To effectively sever links with the US would be a very major decision that would mean the end of any pretence to an American-led attempt to bring about peace.”
Abbas has consistently used accession to the ICC as a bargaining chip with Israel. Senior Fatah official Nabil Shaath told Palestinian news agency Ma'an that Abbas would activate its application to the ICC if the UN Security Council rejected a demand to set a three year deadline for Israeli withdrawal to its 1967 borders.
Since the unity government and Fatah-Hamas relations are already strained, most analysts seem to suggest that these reports are unlikely to bring relations to breaking point although they could be used by Hamas to gain more leverage.
“The unity government is not doing so well. I don’t think that it will be this controversy that will torpedo this process as it has already been troublesome for years,” said Gindy.
Doyle agreed: “Hamas will point to the perceived weakness on behalf of Abbas and the PA, and they will attempt to maximise their political position as a result of that. But the underlying issues between Fatah and Hamas are far more serious and involve ... different viewpoints regarding the future of Palestine itself.”
The ICC, which sought to confirm the application received by Abbas’s minister of foreign affairs Riad Maliki last month, has so far been supportive of the application’s procedural progress.
Hamas - which declared several weeks ago that it was prepared to incur the risk of prosecution from the ICC for the rockets they have fired at Israel - is also unlikely to be impeding the process although it is probably in no rush to push through the application, Gindy explained.
Since Israel launched its military assault in early July, both Hamas and Israeli officials have accused the other of committing war crimes. If Palestine were to join the ICC, its various factions would become liable for possible prosecution.
Despite the potential for Hamas to be subject to prosecution should Palestine join the ICC, the group has been pressuring Abbas to push the process forward, MEE reported exclusively in August.
The Palestinians in 2009 asked the ICC's prosecutor's office to investigate alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity committed by the Israeli military in Gaza.
However, there has so far been no probe as Palestine is not an ICC member state and its status as a state is uncertain in some international institutions. Israel has also signed but not ratified the treaty, making the prospect of investigating crimes on territory it controlled extremely difficult. 

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