Reprinted from Jonathan Cook Blog
Al-Araby -- 7 January 2015
At the weekend, Fatah posted an image on its Facebook page of Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu next to a hangman's noose, alongside the words "coming soon" and the scales-of-justice logo of the International Criminal Court in the Hague.
This is certainly how many Palestinians would like to view Netanyahu's fate over the coming months.
Last week, Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, reluctantly signed on to the Rome Statute, paving the way for ICC membership, after he failed to win a vote at the UN Security Council on a resolution to end the occupation by 2017.
The loyalists of Abbas' Fatah party are likely to be disappointed, however. There are many obstacles to be cleared before anyone in Israel, let alone the prime minister, reaches the dock in the Hague accused of war crimes.
The first test will be whether Abbas' nerve holds. It will be 60 days before the application to join the ICC takes effect. In the meantime, Israel and the US -- neither of which has ratified the Rome Statute -- will exert as much pressure on him as possible to change course.
At Sunday's cabinet meeting, Netanyahu announced that Israel would withhold the monthly tax revenues it collects on behalf of Abbas' Palestinian Authority (PA) and which it is obligated to pass on.
Given the PA's precarious finances, that is a blow that will be quickly felt. Abbas dismissed the move, dressing up his diplomatic desperation as cavalier disregard. "Now there are sanctions -- that's fine. There's an escalation -- that's fine ... but we're pushing forward," he said.
Israel is threatening to pile on additional punishments this week. Or as a senior foreign ministry official put it: "Israel is about to switch from defense to attack mode."
Included is a plan to recruit Israel's powerful lobbies in Washington to ensure the enforcement of legislation requiring the US Congress to halt some $400 million in annual aid to the PA in the event that the Palestinians actually initiate any actions at the Hague to investigate Israelis for war crimes.Implicating Abbas
Further, Israel is threatening to use its own undoubtedly formidable intelligence-gathering against Abbas and his PA officials, implicating them in war crimes too.
Israel could try to pursue Palestinian officials, including Abbas, through the US courts, which have in the past shown a willingness to back terror-related claims against Palestinians.
In September a New York jury found against the Jordan-based Arab Bank for channelling charitable money into the occupied territories to help poor families, agreeing that this had helped support "terror."
At the weekly Israeli cabinet meeting, Netanyahu warned: "Those who need to answer before a criminal court are the heads of the Palestinian Authority, who have forged an alliance with the war criminals of Hamas." One of his officials similarly noted that they had "quite a bit of ammunition" to use against Abbas.