The International Criminal Court (ICC) has ruled that it has the jurisdiction to investigate Israel for alleged war crimes. The court’s ruling on Friday paves the way for the ICC prosecutors to open a probe against the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) for their defensive military actions against Gaza-based Hamas and other Palestinian terrorist groups.

Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu rejected the international tribunal’s decision to investigate Israel on trumped up charges of war crimes. “Today the ICC proved once again that it is a political body and not a judicial institution,” Prime Minister Netanyahu said. “The ICC ignores the real war crimes and instead pursues the State of Israel, a state with a strong democracy that sanctifies the rule of law, and is not a member of the ICC.”

“In this decision, the ICC violated the right of democracies to defend themselves against terrorism, and played into the hands of those who undermine efforts to expand the circle of peace,” the Israeli prime minister added.

Israel’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Gabi Ashkenazi declared that Jerusalem “will take every necessary measure to protect its citizens” targeted by the Hague-based tribunal.

“Today’s decision by the ICC distorts international law and turns this institution into a political tool of anti-Israel propaganda,” Israeli foreign minister said. “The judges’ decision rewards Palestinian terrorism, as well as the refusal of the Palestinian Authority to return to direct negotiations with Israel, and will further polarize both sides,” the Israeli foreign minister added.

The Associated Press reported the ICC ruling:

The International Criminal Court said Friday that its jurisdiction extends to territories occupied by Israel in the 1967 Mideast war, potentially clearing the way for its chief prosecutor to open a war crimes probe into Israeli military actions.

The decision was welcomed by the Palestinians and decried by Israel’s prime minister, who vowed to fight “this perversion of justice.” The U.S., Israel’s closest ally, said it opposed the decision.

The ICC’s chief prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, said in 2019 that there was a “reasonable basis” to open a war crimes probe into Israeli military actions in the Gaza Strip as well as Israeli settlement activity in the occupied West Bank. But she asked the court to determine whether she has territorial jurisdiction before proceeding.

In a statement on Twitter, Bensouda’s office welcomed the “judicial clarity” of the ruling, but said it needed time before deciding how to proceed.

“The Office is currently carefully analysing the decision & will then decide its next step guided strictly by its independent & impartial mandate,” it said. (…)

The Palestinians have asked the court to look into Israeli actions during its 2014 war against Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip, as well as Israel’s construction of settlements in the occupied West Bank and annexed east Jerusalem. (…)

While the court would have a hard time prosecuting Israelis, it could issue arrest warrants that would make it difficult for Israeli officials to travel abroad.

U.S. President Joe Biden’s administration on Friday rejected the jurisdiction claims made by the Hague-based tribunal in its latest ruling. “We have serious concerns about the ICC’s attempts to exercise its jurisdiction over Israeli personnel,” State Department spokesman Ned Price said on Friday, “The United States has always taken the position that the court’s jurisdiction should be reserved for countries that consent to it, or that are referred by the UN Security Council.”

The State Department’s statement, which reflects the long-held U.S. policy, is in line with the view held be many legal experts.

The ICC “ignores international law by inventing a Palestinian state that does not exist and creates a crime that no one in international law has ever been charged with before: the crime of people living in places,” noted U.S. legal authority Professor Eugene Kontorovich said in December 2019.

Professor Kontorovich, who teaches constitutional law at the Antonin Scalia Law School at Mason, also rejected ICC’s intention to categorize the existence of Jews communities in Judea and Samaria as a “war crime,” the part of the biblical Jewish homeland which came into Israel’s possession in the defensive war of 1967. “To say it is a war crime for a Jew to live in the Jewish Quarter of the Old City is absurd,” he said. “It is quite clear that the crime of people living somewhere is a crime for which one must be Jewish to be eligible.”

The former Commander of the British Forces in Afghanistan, Colonel (retd.) Richard Kemp, dismissed the tribunal’s ruling as “a politically-motivated move, intended by those behind it to redouble the anti-Israel propaganda campaign.”

Colonel Kemp, who was part of an independent investigation into the 2014 Gaza conflict, responded to the Friday’s ICC ruling with an op-ed in the Jerusalem Post:

The ICC prosecutor accuses Israel, during Operation Pillar of Defense in 2014, of using disproportionate force in Gaza, willfully killing and causing serious injuries to civilians and intentionally attacking protected individuals and locations. She alleges that the IDF committed war crimes against Gazans violently attempting to breach the border into Israel in 2018 and 2019.

I was present during these conflicts, witnessed and was extensively briefed on IDF operations. I was a member of an investigation into Operation Pillar of Defense by the High Level Military Group, an independent body of retired generals from Western armed forces and human rights experts. The group unanimously concluded that: “The IDF not only met its obligations under the Law of Armed Conflict, but often exceeded these on the battlefield.”

General Martin Dempsey, at the time Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, commented: “Israel went to extraordinary lengths to limit collateral damage and civilian casualties.” My first-hand observations during the Hamas-instigated Gaza border violence in 2018-19 echo these assessments.

“Is it pure coincidence that, after many months of deliberation, the ICC political court delivers its decision on jurisdiction only after President Biden is sworn in?” Colonel Kemp asked on Twitter. “The Trump administration sanctioned the ICC for its efforts to bully Israel, the US & UK.”

The ICC has been trying to open a similar investigation against the members of the U.S. armed forces who served in Afghanistan. President Donald Trump’s administration responded by putting sanctions on the tribunal. The outgoing Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, described the ICC as “a thoroughly broken and corrupt institution” undertaking “illegitimate attempts to subject Americans to its jurisdiction.”

The anti-Israel ruling comes just weeks after President Joe Biden’s administration announced the decision to review the measures taken by the Trump White House against the ICC.

“The Biden administration will “thoroughly review” U.S. sanctions on International Criminal Court officials imposed over investigations into U.S forces in Afghanistan,” the Reuters reported last month citing State Department officials.

Israel’s PM Netanyahu’s statement on the International Criminal Court’s ruling

[Featured Image: Hamas fires rockets at Israel from civilian areas during 2014 Gaza conflict, via YouTube]

 

 
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