After failing to convince the United Nations Security Council to vote on placing a deadline to end Israel's occupation on territories it conquered in 1967, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas signed documents necessary for joining international organizations, including the International Criminal Court (ICC), at a meeting Wednesday in Ramallah in the West Bank.
The decision sets the stage for filing a war crimes case against Israel for its actions in Gaza. The Palestinians must wait 60 days before they can present a case to the court.
"We strongly believe that diplomacy, including accession to treaties and international organizations, is a right for the Palestinian people. Preceding the meeting, we will announce our immediate future steps," Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said in a statement, according to Haaretz.
Abbas had warned that if the U.N. resolution failed, he would resume a Palestinian campaign to join international organizations to put pressure on Israel. The decision is expected to trigger a harsh response from Israel.
Israel says all disputes should be resolved through peace talks and warned that joining the ICC would also expose Palestinians to prosecution.
"The Palestinians will themselves be judged by this court, which will show the world the nature of Palestinian terrorism and the war crimes committed in the name of the Palestinian Authority," said Emmanuel Nahshon, a spokesman for Israel's Foreign Ministry.
The move to join the ICC came a day after the Palestinians called on the U.N. Security Council to set a 2017 deadline for completing negotiations and ending Israel's occupation of territories conquered in 1967.
Even if the resolution succeeded in winning the necessary minimum nine "yes" votes to be carried in the 15-member council, the United States voted "no" and, with its veto power as one of five permanent members of the body, would have blocked the resolution.
Only eight members voted for the resolution; Australia also voted against it, and five countries — the United Kingdom, Lithuania, Rwanda, Nigeria and South Korea — abstained.
The U.S., Israel's closest ally, reiterated its opposition to the draft resolution earlier on Tuesday, with Washington's U.N. Ambassador Samantha Power calling the vote a "staged confrontation" and insisting that negotiations should continue without the U.N. imposition of a timetable or parameters. President Barack Obama's administration failed in its most recent effort in the spring to revive negotiations between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization, of which Abbas is also the chairman.
The Palestinian resolution, presented by Jordan, which currently holds one of the rotating seats on the Security Council, called for occupied East Jerusalem to be the capital of a Palestinian state, an end to Israeli settlement building (deemed illegal under standing Security Council resolutions) and settling the issue of Palestinian prisoner releases.
The resolution also called for negotiations to be based on territorial boundaries that existed before Israel captured the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip in the war of June 1967.
Israel said the Security Council vote, after the collapse of Secretary of State John Kerry's effort to revive talks in April, would deepen the conflict.
The Palestinian leadership, frustrated by the long-term paralysis in peace talks, has sought intermittently to internationalize the issue by seeking U.N. recognition and membership in other international organizations. Several European parliaments have signaled their impatience with Israel's continued occupation by adopting nonbinding resolutions recognizing Palestinian statehood.
After the summer's Gaza conflict, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stated publicly that the turmoil in the region underscored his belief that Israel cannot accept an independent Palestinian state in the West Bank and would insist on maintaining security control over the territory.
Al Jazeera and wire services