Israel rejects ICC probe into IDF ‘war crimes,’ saying it lacks jurisdiction

“In addition to totally rejecting the claim that Israel commits war crimes, Israel reiterates its unequivocal position that the Hague Tribunal has no authority to open an investigation against it,” the government stated.

By Associated Press and World Israel News

Israel on Thursday said it would formally reject the International Criminal Court’s decision to launch a probe into potential war crimes against the Palestinians, denying that it has committed such crimes and saying the court lacks the jurisdiction to investigate.

A panel of judges at the ICC ruled in February that the court does have jurisdiction, allowing the investigation to proceed. Israel’s response to a formal notification sent out last month is not expected to reopen that debate, though judges may reconsider the issue of jurisdiction later in the process.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu blasted the ICC ruling as “pure anti-Semitism” and “a dark day for truth and justice.”

The court is expected to look at possible war crimes committed during and after the 2014 Gaza war, as well as Israel’s establishment of Jewish communities in Judea, Samaria and eastern Jerusalem.

The Palestinians have hailed the probe as a rare opportunity to hold Israel to account for what they allege are serious, longstanding violations of international law. The Palestinians were granted nonmember observer status in the U.N. General Assembly in 2012, allowing them to join international organizations like the ICC.

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Israel says the court is biased against it and has no right to investigate, citing its own judicial processes and the fact that the Palestinians have neither a state nor defined borders.

“In addition to totally rejecting the claim that Israel commits war crimes, Israel reiterates its unequivocal position that the Hague Tribunal has no authority to open an investigation against it,” the government said in a statement, detailing a letter it plans to send to the ICC.

“Israel is committed to the rule of law and will continue to investigate any charges against it regardless of the source, and it expects the tribunal to refrain from violating its authority and sovereignty,” the statement said.

According to Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, “The threat to Israel reached such a critical point in the summer of 2014 when Hamas and other terrorist organizations intensified their rocket and mortar launches towards Israel, firing on an almost daily basis. In June and July 2014, Israel uncovered additional cross-border assault tunnels constructed by Hamas for the purpose of perpetrating terrorist attacks on Israeli soil.

“These events coincided with Hamas’s efforts to destabilize the West Bank [Judea and Samaria] by means of incitement to violence and increased terrorist activity, including the kidnapping and murder of three Israeli teenagers. While the IDF sought to locate the kidnapped teenagers and to reduce Hamas’s military capabilities in the West Bank, Israel attempted to avoid escalation in the Gaza Strip.

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“In response to Hamas’s attacks from the Gaza Strip, Israel engaged in extensive diplomatic efforts and also sought international intervention in an effort to prevent escalation, while limiting its military actions to pinpoint strikes in the Gaza Strip. However, the Hamas-led attacks from the Gaza Strip only intensified.

“When Hamas and other terrorist organizations fired over 60 rockets at Israel from the Gaza Strip on July 7, the Government of Israel was left with no choice but to launch an aerial campaign, termed Operation Protective Edge, which focused on reducing the ongoing and imminent threat of attacks, in order to protect its civilian population.

“Under these circumstances, Israel was justified under international law in resorting to a broader military operation against Hamas and other terrorist organisations in the Gaza Strip, as part of the ongoing armed conflict being waged by these organizations.”

Israel is not a member of the ICC, but Israeli officials could be subject to arrest in other countries if the court issues warrants against them.