Israel and the United States strongly denounced the International Criminal Court’s (ICC) decision on Friday to investigate alleged war crimes committed by Israel in relation to the conflict with the Palestinians, with the Jewish State’s leader decrying the denial of Jewish rights to live in Judea and Samaria as “antisemitic.”
“They say the Jews do not have a right to settle in the Jewish homeland. They say the Jews do not have a right to live in the land of the Jews, in the Land of Israel,” said Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in comments published by his office on Sunday. “Well, we say, shame on you. The light of truth lights here and we will overcome you, just as we overcame other antisemites in history. Pure antisemitism, that’s what the ICC has done, and we will not bow our heads.”
The United States also challenged the ICC’s move. “We firmly oppose this and any other action that seeks to target Israel unfairly,” said US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in a statement published by the State Department. “…The United States remains deeply, firmly, and consistently committed to achieving a comprehensive and lasting peace between Israel and the Palestinians. The only realistic path forward to end this conflict is through direct negotiations.”
ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda on Friday announced in a statement on the ICC’s website that the preliminary investigation into the “Situation in Palestine” had left her “satisfied” that war crimes had been or are being committed in Judea and Samaria—territory the Palestinians claim as the “West Bank”—as well as the Gaza Strip and Jerusalem.
She did not specify what “war crimes” were being investigated, although The Times of Israel reported the accusations apparently include the Israeli civilian settlement of Judea and Samaria, the Israeli response to the Palestinian rioters along their border with Gaza and Hamas’ attacks on Israeli civilians.
The ramifications of the ICC investigation are potentially wide-ranging. The Times of Israel’s report said that Israeli officials are concerned that members of the Israeli military could face arrest warrants and even the prime minister and other officials could be prosecuted.
Former US Middle East envoy Jason Greenblatt blasted the ICC’s decision on Twitter: “An outrageous politically-driven decision by ICC. It’s not ‘Palestinian Territory’. At best, land is disputed-time to stop pretending otherwise. Ludicrous, biased steps like this harm any chances for peace. There’s no substitute for direct negotiations.”
The ICC decision is fraught with controversy, including that the party bringing accusations is the so-called “State of Palestine”, which does not exist as a recognized legal entity. Generally speaking, the ICC only has jurisdiction over the nation states who have accepted its authority, which Israel—as well as the United States—have not done. Acknowledging this issue, Bensouda called for the ICC’s Pre-Trial Chamber to determine if the ICC has jurisdiction over the territory “as swiftly as possible” before she begins her official investigation.
Pompeo, in his statement, highlighted the need for a review over whether or not the ICC has jurisdiction as demonstrating that even ICC prosecutor Bensouda “expressly recognized that there are serious legal questions about the Court’s authority to proceed with an investigation.”
Pompeo said the US does not view the Palestinians as qualifying as a sovereign nation and therefore cannot be a member of the ICC. He reiterated the American “longstanding objection” to the ICC taking jurisdiction over persons whose states are not parties to the Rome Statute that accepts ICC authority, unless the United Nations’ Security Council refers the case to the ICC.
“The United States respects the decision of those nations that have chosen to join the ICC, and in turn, we expect that the decision on the part of the United States and Israel not to join and not to place our personnel under the court’s jurisdiction will also be respected,” said Pompeo.
Netanyahu, in separate comments on Sunday also published by his office, called the ICC decision “absurd.”
“They took a Palestinian claim, who do not have a state, and accused the only democracy in the Middle East, which operates in accordance with the highest legal standards of the western democracies, which the court has no jurisdiction over,” said Netanyahu.
He further said it was an “absurdity” that the ICC decision opposes “historical truth. It opposes the right of the Jews to settle in the Jews’ homeland. To turn the fact that Jews are living in their land into a war crime is an absurdity of unimaginable proportions.”
Lastly, Netanyahu highlighted who is and who is not before the Court as yet another absurdity. “The prosecutor’s decision contradicts contemporary truth. Who are they bringing here? Who are they accusing here? Iran? Turkey? Syria? No – Israel, the only democracy in the Middle East. This is terrible hypocrisy,” said Netanyahu.
“We will continue to fight against these three absurdities. We will continue to shatter them. We will struggle for our rights and for our historical truth with all the tools at our disposal.”
(By Joshua Spurlock, www.themideastupdate.com, December 22, 2019)