US backs Israel against ICC prosecutor, says court has no jurisdiction

The Biden administration is “deeply disappointed” by the decision, which it says targets Israel unfairly.

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

The United States came out with a firm message of support Wednesday for Israel’s position against the outgoing International Criminal Court (ICC) prosecutor’s announcement that she will begin investigating Israel for possible war crimes.

“The United States firmly opposes and is deeply disappointed by this decision,” the State Department said.

“The ICC has no jurisdiction over this matter. Israel is not a party to the ICC and has not consented to the Court’s jurisdiction, and we have serious concerns about the ICC’s attempts to exercise its jurisdiction over Israeli personnel,” it said in a statement.

“The Palestinians do not qualify as a sovereign state and therefore, are not qualified to obtain membership as a state in, participate as a state in, or delegate jurisdiction to the ICC.”

The U.S. also noted that the ICC is “a Court of limited jurisdiction” whose limits “must be respected.” This means, among other things, that it cannot legally intervene in countries that have robust judicial systems that investigate their own alleged crimes, such as Israel – and the U.S.

Like Israel, the U.S. never signed onto the ICC, fearing that it would face similar attempts to interfere in its internal affairs. This in fact is what has happened. The ICC ruled on March 5, 2020, that its chief prosecutor could open investigations into U.S. involvement into war crimes in Afghanistan.

In response, President Donald Trump last June signed an executive order to prevent ICC employees from entering the country and blocking their assets. This January, however, a U.S. District judge prevented the administration from penalizing four human rights lawyers for supporting the ICC’s work.

Chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda is aiming ICC’s guns at Israeli actions against terrorism emanating from the Gaza Strip, Judea and Samaria, and eastern Jerusalem since June 13, 2014, the date requested by the Palestinian Authority (PA) in its original request to the court for an investigation, which happens to be the day after the kidnapping and murder of three Jewish teens by Hamas terrorists that led to Israel’s Operation Protective Edge in the Gaza Strip later that summer.

The probe is reportedly to include Hamas actions that have claimed Israeli victims, but Hamas welcomed the court’s announcement, suggesting it’s not overly worried about a negative outcome from the investigation.

The second target of the inquiry is Jewish settlement construction, including in Jerusalem. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu accused the ICC of “undiluted anti-Semitism” in alleging that “build[ing] a house in our eternal capital of Jerusalem…is a war crime,” while turning “a blind eye” to real war crimes committed by Iran and other dictatorships.