Netanyahu freezes Jordan Valley annexation to avoid angering Hague

A government meeting to look into annexation was cancelled hours before it was to start.

By World Israel News Staff

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government has frozen plans to annex the Jordan Valley in order not to increase friction with the International Criminal Court in The Hague, Yediot Ahronot reports on Tuesday.

In September, a week before the second Israeli elections in a year, Netanyahu promised to annex the Jordan Valley and northern Dead Sea area. “It’s our eastern defensive wall. A defensive wall that ensures that we’ll never return to be a state with a width of several kilometers,” he said.

However, the first meeting of an inter-ministerial committee to examine extending sovereignty over the Jordan Valley, which was to take place last week and be overseen by Ronen Peretz, acting director general of the prime minister’s office, was cancelled hours before it was to start, the Israeli paper reports.

“The reason: The assessment that the chief prosecutor of The Hague was about to publish her preliminary examination results. The concern was that the convening of the [inter-ministerial] team at that time would intensify the confrontation with the ICC,” Yediot reports.

On Friday, ICC Chief Prosecutor  Fatou Bensouda ruled that the ICC should investigate Israel for war crimes during the 2014 Gaza War and for alleged war crimes committed in areas won by Israel in the Six Day War, specifically Judea and Samaria.

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Bensouda wrote, “In brief, I am satisfied that (i) war crimes have been or are being committed in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip; (ii) potential cases arising from the situation would be admissible; and (iii) there are no substantial reasons to believe that an investigation would not serve the interests of justice.”

Critics of the ruling have pointed out a number of legal problems with Bensouda’s decision, including the fact that the ICC has jurisdiction only in cases brought before it by sovereign states.

Although Palestine is not a state, Bensouda referred to the Palestine Authority in her legal opinion as the “State of Palestine.”

Observers have also pointed out that the ICC has jurisdiction only over states that have signed on to its Rome Statute, whose purpose is to prosecute those who’ve committed war crimes. Israel has not signed onto the statute.

According to international legal expert Eugene Kontorovich, “[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.”

Given that the ICC has no jurisdiction over Israel, it’s unclear why the government is fearful of antagonizing it.

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However, lending credence to the report are recent statements by Israeli Foreign Minister Yisrael Katz, who said the Netanyahu administration feared dismantling a Bedouin outpost because of the ICC.

Netanyahu challenger Gideon Sa’ar, who is running for the Likud leadership, seized on the remarks and said the government is “afraid of the Hague.”