Netanyahu blasts ICC investigation of Israeli ‘war crimes’: ‘A dark day for truth and justice’

Netanyahu slammed the decision of the World Court to investigate alleged war crimes by Israel.

By World Israel News Staff

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, channeling general outrage in Israel, slammed the decision of the International Criminal Court on Friday, calling it “a dark day for truth and justice.”

Bensouda’s decision “has turned the International Criminal Court into a political tool to delegitimize the State of Israel. The prosecutor has completely ignored the legal arguments we presented to her,” the prime minister said.

The prosecutor of the International Criminal Court moved on Friday toward opening an investigation into alleged war crimes in the “occupied Palestinian territories,” asking judges to outline the geographic scope of a future investigation.

They’re “turning the World Court into a political weapon against Israel. They want to turn the fact that Jews live in the Land of Israel, in their homeland, into a war crime. It’s absurd,” Netanyahu said.

The announcement ended years of preliminary investigations into alleged crimes by both Israeli forces and Palestinians and signaled that Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda is preparing to open a formal probe.

Netanyahu called Bensouda’s ruling “scandalous and baseless.”

Israeli Ambassador to the U.N. Danny Danon said, “This isn’t a just ruling, this is persecution. The decision of the International Criminal Court reflects the anti-Semitic tendency rooted in the Hague.”

Israel is not a member of the court and does not recognize its jurisdiction, but Israeli officials could be subject to international arrest warrants if indicted. The “state of Palestine” requested the investigation as a member of the ICC.

The Palestinians welcomed the decision, with Saeb Erekat, a senior official, calling it a “positive and encouraging step” toward “putting an end to the impunity of the perpetrators and contributing to the achievement of justice.”

“This represents a message of hope to our people, the victims of those crimes, that justice is indeed possible,” he added.

In a legal opinion released Friday, Israel’s Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit said the Palestinians do not meet the criteria of statehood because they do not have sovereignty over defined borders. Citing past peace agreements, Israel said the two sides had agreed to resolve their territorial dispute in negotiations.

“By approaching the ICC, the Palestinians are seeking to breach the framework agreed to by the parties and to push the Court to determine political issues that should be resolved by negotiations, and not by criminal proceedings,” the legal opinion said.

Bensouda acknowledged the land dispute at the heart of the decades-old conflict, which has never been resolved and could further delay the launch of any criminal probe.

Bensouda said she has now asked judges to outline the territorial jurisdiction of a full investigation.

“Specifically, I have sought confirmation that the ‘territory’ over which the Court may exercise its jurisdiction, and which I may subject to investigation, comprises the West Bank, including East Jerusalem and Gaza,” she said.

At the Palestinians’ request, Bensouda opened a preliminary investigation in 2015 into alleged violations of international law following the Gaza war.

The Palestinians have in recent years sought to hold Israel accountable for alleged violations of international law, including the construction and expansion of Jewish settlements in Judea and Samaria and eastern Jerusalem.

The U.S. administration recently rejected a 1978 legal opinion finding settlements were in violation of international law.

AP contributed to this report.