Al Jazeera this week revealed an explosive letter from the office of the top prosecutor of the International Criminal Court. In it, Fatou Bensouda recounted a meeting with Riad Malki, the Palestinian Authority’s foreign minister.
On the very same day last month that he was making a show in front of the press of wanting to prosecute Israel at the ICC, Malki was behind closed doors, in that meeting with Bensouda, vetoing just such a move.
Under the terms of the Rome Statute, the founding document of the ICC, only the head of state (Mahmoud Abbas in this case) or the foreign minister (Malki) can authorise an ICC investigation in the territory of that state.
Although lower-level Palestinian Authority officials had, on 30 July, formally delivered a request to Bensouda for her office to investigate the latest bout of vicious Israeli war crimes in Gaza, the ICC’s prosecutors still needed the go ahead from Malki or Abbas.
In the letter obtained by Al Jazeera, and published in full for the first time in my report on the issue for The Electronic Intifada Friday, Bensouda recounted that during her 5 August meeting with Malki, she “sought to confirm whether or not” that request had been officially “transmitted on behalf of the Palestinian Authority”.
But Bensouda “did not receive a positive confirmation”. In other words, Malki quietly scuppered the putative investigation into Israeli war crimes in Gaza.
Why is the Palestinian Authority so determined to protect Israel on the world stage?
Due to the fact that this entity has a need to be mindful of its own Palestinian constituency in the West Bank (despite the fact that it is unelected and totally unaccountable), the PA is often two-faced. Whereas the Israeli government is openly and loudly against moves to hold it accountable at UN bodies and in international courts, the PA will claim to be in favour. But as we have seen time and again, the PA will quietly act against such moves behind the scenes.
It previously held up moves to hold Israel accountable in the wake of the 2009 Goldstone Report – as revealed in the Palestine Papers. And as I discovered and wrote about in an investigate report in 2010, the PA acted decisively against the UN Human Rights Council condemning Israel for its May 2010 attack on the Mavi Marmara – a Turkish ship assaulted by Israeli soldiers off the coast of Gaza.
In the attack, Israel’s thug soldiers murdered nine peace activists and injured many others – a tenth, who was shot in the head, died this past May after a four-year coma.
But the Palestinian Authority – as proven in PA and UN documents I obtained in 2010 – agreed to the removal of more critical wording from a UN Human Rights Council resolution. Wording that Turkey insisted should stay.
Time and again, we see this pattern repeated: the PA protects Israel. But why? Is it afraid of US or European reprisals? Large parts of the PA’s budget does come from European aid after all.
The answer is fairly simple: since its establishment the PA has always been a tool of Israeli occupation. It was set up as a way to pull the teeth of, and effectively neutralise, the Palestine Liberation Organisation – which for a time was a genuine anti-colonial liberation movement, but is now an empty shell.
The PA’s main role has always been simply to farm out the Israeli occupation. Israel remains in ultimate control of the small areas of the West Bank that the PA supposedly controls, but PA armed forces often play a usful role in shielding Israel soldiers from protest – blocking roads to prevent protesters from reaching Israeli military bases and settlements, for example.
On the diplomatic and legal fronts, the PA plays quite a similar role. Israel often comes in for criticism for its obstruction of the process of international law, and is regularly isolated on the world stage. But when such obstruction is the Palestinian Authority’s doing, Israel can once again be shielded from criticism, as happened in this case.
Until the PA is dismantled, it will continue to protect Israel, and play a similar role in undermining the Palestinian liberation struggle that the leaders of the Bantustans played in apartheid-era South Africa.
An associate editor with The Electronic Intifada, Asa Winstanley is an investigative journalist who lives in London.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.