International Criminal Court to investigate Israeli ‘war crimes in Palestine’

The ICC decision will focus on two key Israeli policies of recent years.

By Lauren Marcus, World Israel News

The International Criminal Court’s prosecutor announced on Wednesday that she will investigate alleged Israeli war crimes in Judea and Samaria and the Gaza Strip.

The decision drew a swift Israeli condemnation, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu accusing the court of hypocrisy and anti-Semitism, and vowing “to fight for the truth.”

In a videotaped statement, Netanyahu said: “The state of Israel is under attack this evening.”

“The ICC, which was established to prevent a repeat of the horrors the Nazis instigated again the Jewish people, now turns against the state of the Jewish people. Of course it doesn’t say a word against Iran and Syria, and other tyrannical regimes, frequently committing real war crimes,” he said.

Defense Minister Benny Gantz vowed to protect IDF veterans and those who are still in the military. He told Reuters he believes several hundred Israelis could be subject to arrest warrants issued by the court if they travel abroad, “but we will take care of everybody.”

The ICC decision will focus on two key Israeli policies of recent years: 1) Its military operations against Palestinian terrorists in the Gaza Strip, highlighted by a 2014 war, Operation Protective Edge, brought on by the kidnapping and murder of three Jewish teenagers by members of Hamas, the terror group that controls the Strip, and 2) Israel’s expansion of Jewish settlements in Judea and Samaria, and even parts of its capital Jerusalem.

In a statement on the ICC’s website, prosecutor Fatou Bensouda said, “The investigation will cover crimes within the jurisdiction of the Court that are alleged to have been committed in the situation since 13 June 2014, the date to which reference is made in the referral of the situation to my office.”

The starting date of June 13, 2014 was specifically requested by Palestinian attorneys and pro-Palestinian NGOs that filed the request for the ICC investigation, the day after Palestinian terrorists kidnapped and murdered the three Israeli teenagers. It likely means the probe will conveniently (for the Palestinians) avoid covering those murders.

The Palestinian Authority (PA) celebrated the ICC’s decision, issuing a statement that it is prepared to offer “any assistance required… to realize justice for the Palestinian people.”

The ICC prosecutor’s statement repeatedly referred to the Rome Statute as the source of its authority for investigating Israel. However, Israel is not a signatory to the Rome Statute, nor is the Rome Statute meant to cover non-state actors. The Palestinian Authority is not a state.

Also, according to its rules, the ICC cannot investigate alleged abuses in a country whose justice system already does so. Israel’s judicial system does investigate its military when called to do so.

When, on Feb. 5, the court declared 2-1 that it had jurisdiction to investigate Israel in Palestinian territories, the senior judge at the ICC sitting on the decision said the majority of his colleagues were wrong.

“I find neither the Majority’s approach nor its reasoning appropriate in answering the question before this Chamber, and in my view, they have no legal basis in the Rome Statute and even less so in public international law,” Judge Peter Kovacs wrote in his dissension.

The Feb. 5 decision was blasted by Jewish groups and legal experts.

Professor Eugene Kontorovich, director of International Law at the Jerusalem-based Kohelet Policy Forum, said at the time: “The ICC’s acceptance of jurisdiction to investigate a non-member state on behalf of a member that is not a state, and its conclusion about jurisdiction, are lawless and entirely results-oriented.”

NGO Monitor’s legal adviser Anne Herzberg told JNS, “The ICC prosecutor has been gunning for Israel for several years, and has been working closely with European-funded terror-linked NGOs to craft bogus indictments against Israeli officials.”

Radical left-wing Israeli NGOs are also reportedly behind the ICC’s decision.

AP contributed to this report.