RAMALLAH (Palestinian Territories) - The Palestinians are facing "intensive pressure" not to sue Israel for war crimes at the International Criminal Court should they win upgraded UN status this week, an official said on Wednesday.
Speaking to reporters in Ramallah, senior PLO official Hanan Ashrawi said the Palestinian leadership had not given in to heavy international pressure to commit that they would not sue Israeli officials at the ICC should they win recognition as a non-member state at the United Nations.
"We have not succumbed to pressure, we did not give any commitment," she said, speaking a day before Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas was to present the upgrade request to the UN General Assembly in New York.
"We haven't decided that tomorrow we are going to be recognised as a state and the day after, we are going to the International Criminal Court," Ashrawi said.
Most of the pressure came from the British government, she said.
"The UK did try in an intensive effort to modify the text (of the resolution) and to get assurances and commitments," she explained.
"It wasn't only the UK but it was the most visible. We know that Israel, of course, was working through the US and through the UK to try and get commitments that Israel will not be taken to the International Criminal Court."
If the request is approved by the 193 member states of the UN General Assembly -- which is largely seen as a foregone conclusion -- it will give the Palestinians access to a range of UN agencies and also potentially to the ICC, which is based in The Hague.
Israel strongly opposes the UN bid, saying a Palestinian state can only emerge through bilateral negotiations and not through a vote by the global body. Officials fear the Palestinians will use their new-found status to take legal action against Israeli officials at the ICC.
Ashrawi said she hoped that the threat alone would be enough to make Israel think twice about its actions vis-a-vis the Palestinians.
"We hope that this will be a positive inducement for corrective action" on the part of Israel, she said.
"It is our right to join all international agencies and organisations and we will accede to all international charters and conventions. We reserve our right to decide on how and when to proceed in accordance with our best interests."