“Put historic alliances aside and take both parties of the conflict seriously”
Scotland’s only full member of the European Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee, Alyn Smith, has urged the EU and member states’ leaders to voice their support for the Palestinian membership of the International Criminal Court (ICC).
The call comes on the day the EP is holding its annual debate on the main lines of the EU's foreign, security and defence policies with the High Representative, Federica Mogherini.
The Israeli-Palestinian peace talks are on hold at present and the situation is again escalating after Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, signed the paperwork to join the ICC on 31st December last year. The move prompted the Israeli government to freeze the tax and customs revenues it collects on behalf of the Palestinian authority, which is not in control of its own borders.
“We all agree there can be no peace without justice and diplomacy; this also applies to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict where decades of armed struggle and on-off peace talks have simply failed.
“Signing the Rome statute opens up Palestinian territory to future ICC investigations, a situation Israel and its allies, including the UK, fought a long and intense battle behind the scenes to avoid. Forgetting that this decision not only sets the stage for filing a war crimes case against Israel for its actions in Gaza, it also exposes Palestinians to prosecution. The Palestinians will themselves be judged by this court.
“Surely, if the EU is committed to actively promoting the widest participation to the ICC, we should be backing the right of the Palestinian people to seek justice through accession to treaties and international organisations, and not discouraging them from doing so.
“If we, the union of European nations, continue to fail to act and support Palestinians’ campaign to join international organisations, the Arab-Israeli conflict will remain a thorn in the side of the Middle East, causing suffering and destruction which will continue throughout the remainder of this chamber’s mandate and many more to come.
“The Israeli government is protesting against the Palestinians’ application to join the ICC in the Hague; freezing the tax and custom revenues amounts to an average of 500m shekels a month and is equivalent to 60 per cent of the salary bill of the Palestinian Authority.
“We simply cannot accept a situation where one side of a conflict is looking for justice on the international arena and the other side of the conflict is punishing them for the move with the international community’s silent approval.
“These new developments have potentially perilous consequences for future stability in the region and it’s time leaders of the European and other nations, including the UK, put historic alliances aside and take both parities of the conflict seriously. I, for my part, will back any step taken, by either side, towards finding a viable solution and towards increased accountability of both parties of the conflict.”