The International Criminal Court (ICC) has opened a probe against Israel over alleged war crimes, court’s chief prosecutor announced on Friday.

ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda failed to specify the nature of the allegations against Israel, claiming that she was “satisfied” that “war crimes have been or are being committed in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip.” Palestinian terrorist groups, Hamas and PLO, praised the ICC for targeting Israel.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu rejected the ICC probe, calling it a “political tool” to harm the country. “This is a dark day for truth and justice. It is a baseless and outrageous decision,” Netanyahu said. The ICC “has no authority to adjudicate the matter. It has jurisdiction only in lawsuits presented by sovereign states, but there has never been a Palestinian state. We will not accept or acquiesce to this injustice. We will continue to fight it with all the tools at our disposal,” he added.

The chief prosecutor’s probe “has turned the ICC into a political weapon waging political war against the Jewish state,” Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement. “Israel, like other states, did not join the Rome Statute due to concerns that the court would be exploited as a political tool rather than fulfilling its original purpose. Today, the Office of the Prosecutor has proven that these concerns were justified.”

Israel, just like the United States, does not recognize the jurisdiction of the Hague-based tribunal and has not signed the so-called Rome Statute legitimizing authority of the court. The Palestinian Authority endorsed the statue in 2015, launching a campaign to get it to indict Israel.

The announcement comes weeks after the ICC dropped a probe against Israel over the 2010 Gaza flotilla incident after it found “no reasonable basis to proceed with an investigation.” Israel’s navy was accused of using excessive force against a band of armed Islamists on board the Turkish ship Mavi Marmara attempting to violate Israeli waters on May 31, 2010.

This is not the first time the ICC prosecutor Bensouda has exceed her jurisdiction. Earlier this year, she tried to open an investigation against U.S. troops in Afghanistan over alleged ‘war crimes.’ In August, Washington revoked her visa over the proposed inquiry. “The United States will take the necessary steps to protect its sovereignty and to protect our people from unjust investigation and prosecution by the international criminal court,” a U.S. State Department spokesperson said at that time. Similar sanctions will kick in if the ICC targeted U.S. allies, including Israel, the State Department declared.

Israeli broadcaster i24News reported the ICC’s decision:

The chief International Criminal Court prosecutor announced Friday a probe into suspected war crimes on Palestinian territories.

“I am satisfied that there is a reasonable basis to proceed with an investigation into the situation in Palestine,” prosecutor Fatou Bensouda said without specifying who was committing the alleged crimes as the Court wrapped up its preliminary assessment of the situation.

She added that before opening the probe she would ask the Hague-based tribunal to rule on the territory over which it has jurisdiction, as Israel is not signatory to the Rome Statue — the founding charter of the court.

This point was echoed by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Israel’s Attorney General in a legal opinion issued on Friday, which stressed that the Court had no jurisdiction in regards to the Jewish state.

Palestinian entities, in their turn, cannot initiate any proceedings in the ICC, the opinion goes on to point out, as that can only be done by sovereign states — and they do not live up to the claim of statehood and sovereignty.

Israel received backing from the Trump administration on the issue. “We firmly oppose this and any other action that seeks to target Israel unfairly,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Friday. “We do not believe the Palestinians qualify as a sovereign state, and they therefore are not qualified to obtain full membership, or participate as a state in international organizations, entities, or conferences, including the ICC.”

Former U.S. national security adviser, John Bolton, called ICC’s move “lawless and unaccountable.” He tweeted: “We must reject any ICC effort to assert jurisdiction over states like Israel and the United States or their citizens. There can be no compromise and no surrender on this point.”

The American Jewish Committee (AJC) condemned the ICC probe, tweeting: “Hamas launches missiles at Israel. Israel responds. The PA asks the International Criminal Court to charge Israel w/war crimes. Now ICC opens an inquiry: Arsonist blames victim for getting him wet while dousing the flames–and the fireman agrees. Madness!”

“This announcement by the ICC is outrageous both because it represents poor procedure and precedent regarding jurisdiction, and for its potential abuse by those who seek to delegitimize and demonize Israel,” Anti-Defamation League’s chief executive, Jonathan Greenblatt, tweeted.

Not surprisingly, Palestinian terrorist groups welcomed the ICC announcement. Islamic terrorist organization Hamas hailed the ICC decision. “The Hamas movement welcomes the decision to open an investigation into the war crimes committed by the occupation against the Palestinian people,” Gaza-based Hamas spokesperson Hazem Qassem said. The terrorist group Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) also supported the move. PLO Secretary-General Saeb Erekat called it “a positive, encouraging step.”

The ‘war crimes’ probe will be used as a tool to indict Israeli government officials and members of the Israel Defense Forces, Israel’s Channel 12 News reported. Since the Hague-based tribunal is legally restrained from bringing any charges against Israel as a state, it is most likely go after Israeli civilian and military officials engaged in combating terrorism, the Israeli TV network explained. The ICC investigation intends to deter Israel from responding to acts of war and terror committed by the Palestinian terrorist groups.

Prime Minister Netanyahu: ‘This is a dark day for truth and justice.’

[Cover image via YouTube]

 

 
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