UNITED NATIONS, Jan. 8 (UPI) -- Palestine's application to join the International Criminal Court was approved Thursday, opening the door to potential war crime claims against Israel.
The announcement came from United Nations Secretary-General Ban ki-Moon, and makes Palestine, which has limited U.N. recognition, the 123rd country to "accede" to the court by signing the Treaty of Rome, also known as the Rome Statute, which established the court.
The Palestinian Authority began its quest to join in December, after the United Nations Security Council rejected a resolution seeking a deadline for withdrawal of Israeli forces from occupied territories and a final peace agreement establishing Palestine as a state. Admission to the court permits Palestine to address the topic of alleged war crimes committed by Israel during the 50-day Gaza war in 2014, and pressures Israel to negotiate a deal.
Israel responded to Palestine's application by withholding $125.2 million in tax revenues collected for the Palestinian Authority, a move criticized by U.S. President Barack Obama, the European Union and Israeli President Reuven Rivlin. It is feared freezing the revenues will keep the Palestinian Authority from paying wages to government employees, further destabilizing the conflict.
Establishing a date for Palestine's membership in the court will likely add urgency to Israeli response, as well as U.S. efforts to get Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to reverse his bid to join the court.