The International Criminal Court (ICC) is working on a legal opinion on whether the Palestinian Authority (PA) can be considered a de facto state and is thus eligible to demand the persecution of Israel on war crimes committed in the Gaza Strip.
"It is the territorial state that has to make a reference to the court," Luis Moreno-Ocampo, the ICC prosecutor, told The Times on Monday, February 2.
He is scrutinizing arguments submitted by rights groups that the PA, the internationally-recognized representative of the Palestinians, has jurisdiction to demand the persecution of Israel over crimes committed during its 22-day Gaza war.
"They are making an argument that the Palestinian Authority is, in reality, that state."
When first petitioned last month, the ICC said it lacks the jurisdiction in the case since Israel is non-signatory.
The Hague-based court investigates war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide committed on the territory of, or by a national of a state.
The plaintiffs maintain that the Palestinian Authority is the de facto state in the Gaza Strip where the crimes were committed.
The argument is based on the fact that the PA has been the legal authority in Gaza since Israel withdrew from the territory in 2006, a fact stated by Israel itself.
A Palestinian state that ratifies the Rome Statute creating the ICC can refer alleged Israeli war crimes to the court without the current legal wrangling.
Moreno-Ocampo says once he reaches a legal reasoning on this, he would be able to conclude whether the ICC has jurisdiction to persecute Israel or not.
Israeli troops killed more than 1,350 Palestinians, half of them women and children, and injured 5,450 others in air, sea and land attacks.
Several international rights groups, including Amnesty and Human Rights Watch, have accused Israel of using banned weapons against the densely-populated coastal enclave of 1.6 million.
Moreno-Ocampo admits it will be a tough job to assess the argument of allowing the PA the jurisdiction to demand Israel persecution.
"It’s very complicated," he told the British daily.
"It’s a different kind of analysis I am doing. It may take a long time but I will make a decision according to law," vowed the ICC persecutor.
The Times believes the case will have "wide-reaching ramifications" for the Palestinian case for statehood.
"If the court rejects the case, it will highlight the legal black hole that Palestinians find themselves in while they remain stateless," it said.
The two-state solution has been the basis for Israeli-Palestinian negotiations since the launch of Middle East peace process in Madrid in 1991.
Endless peace talks brought no tangible progress.
Israel has long put many obstacles before the creation of two separate states on the historic land of Britain-mandated Palestine.
"However, it [the case] also underlines some of Israel’s worst fears about a Palestinian state on its borders," according to the Times.
"The case could also lead to snowballing international recognition of a Palestinian state by countries eager to see Israel prosecuted."
(IslamOnline.net and Agencies)