‘A Dark Day for Truth’: Israel Enraged by ICC’s Announcement on Probe of Alleged War Crimes

December 22, 2019 by Aryeh Savir - TPS
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Israeli leaders expressed rage and dismissed the announcement by the International Criminal Court (ICC) that is was launching a probe into alleged war crimes committed by Israel as “a travesty of justice and an overstepping” of the Court’s jurisdiction.

Benjamin Netanyahu . Photo: Esty Dziubov/TPS

ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda stated Friday that after the conclusion of a preliminary examination “all the statutory criteria under the Rome Statute for the opening of an investigation have been met” to launch an investigation against Israel and she is now seeking the opinion of other judges on the scope of her capabilities “given the unique and highly contested legal and factual issues attaching to this situation.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stated that “this is a dark day for truth and justice.”

“The ICC prosecutor has decided not to dismiss outright the Palestinian claim against the State of Israel. It is a baseless and outrageous decision,” he added.

He noted that “the court has no jurisdiction in this case. The ICC only has jurisdiction over petitions submitted by sovereign states. But there has never been a Palestinian state.”

He further charged that Bensouda’s decision has turned the ICC “into a political tool to delegitimize the State of Israel. The prosecutor has completely ignored the legal arguments we presented to her.”

“She has also completely ignored history and the truth when she says that the very act of Jews living in their ancestral homeland, the land of the Bible, that this is a war crime,” he added.

Israel “will not be silent. We will not bow our heads before this outrage. We will continue to speak out against this travesty of justice,” he vowed.

He sent a letter to world leaders in which he accused the ICC of turning “into a political weapon against Israel and our connection to our homeland.”

“They are trying to turn the fact that Jews live in their homeland into a war crime. It is absurd. We will fight for our rights and for the historic truth in every possible way,” he wrote.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo stated that the US “firmly opposes this unjustified inquiry that unfairly targets Israel. The path to lasting peace is through direct negotiations.”

Israel’s Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit published his legal opinion on the issue in which he stated that the principled legal position of the State of Israel, which is not a party to the ICC, is that “the Court lacks jurisdiction in relation to Israel and that any Palestinian actions with respect to the Court are legally invalid.”

The Court “manifestly lacks jurisdiction” because only sovereign states can delegate criminal jurisdiction to the ICC, and the Palestinian Authority (PA) “clearly does not meet the criteria for statehood under international law and the Court’s founding Statute.”

Furthermore, the claim that the PA has purported to join the Rome Statute, the treaty that established the ICC, “does not meet, nor can it replace, the substantive test requiring criminal jurisdiction to have been delegated to the Court by a sovereign state with a defined territory.”

He further noted Israel has “valid legal claims over the same territory in relation to which the Palestinians are seeking to submit to the Court’s jurisdiction” and that Israel and the PA “agreed to resolve their dispute over the future status of this territory in the framework of negotiations” and by approaching the ICC, the PA is “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 Court was not established for such purposes, nor does it have the authority or capacity to determine such matters, especially in the absence of the consent of the parties,” he stated.

Israel’s Ambassador to the United Nations Danny Danon stated that the decision “reflects the anti-Israeli tendency rooted in The Hague; the institution is becoming nothing more than another partisan political tool to wield against the Jewish State.”

“This decision exposes the ICC’s desire to follow political considerations, not legal ones,” he charged, highlighting the fact that “Israel has legal and historical rights in the Land of Israel, which no court can change.”

The ICC’s move “only serves to reward the Palestinian campaign to curry international favour instead of negotiating directly with Israel. It will not advance the cause of peace, but, instead, undermines the very institutions that are designed to promote international peace and security,” he said.

Former Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs (NSA) John Bolton stated the ICC’s move “proves yet again that the ICC is lawless and unaccountable. US sovereignty is at stake here as well as Israel’s.”

The US must “reject any ICC effort to assert jurisdiction over states like Israel and the United States or their citizens. There can be no compromise and no surrender on this point,” he said.

The US fears that the ICC is setting a legal president through the prosecution of Israel which would then expose the US to similar probes.

Israel’s Foreign Ministry called the ICC’s decision “unfounded and outrageous. It has turned the ICC into a political weapon waging political war against the Jewish state.”

“The Court has jurisdiction only in cases brought before it by sovereign States. The simple truth is that there is no Palestinian state and there never has been such a state,” the ministry added.

While Israel and the PA agreed that “the end of the conflict between them would be reached through direct negotiations. The Palestinians keep avoiding negotiations and consistently and systematically violate their commitments, including by this appeal to the Court,” Israel charged.

The ministry further pointed out that “by any standard of justice and fairness, it is inconceivable that the Prosecutor would make a decision on this issue before studying seriously and thoroughly Israel’s written position.”

“The Prosecutor has been influenced by Palestinian manipulation, which aims to weaponize the Court. The attempt to turn a political issue into a legal one places a serious obstacle in the way of resolving the conflict,” the ministry warned.

Concluding on a historical note, the ministry said that “Israel, a state founded after the horrors of the Holocaust, was among the first states to support the idea of establishing an international criminal court. Nevertheless, Israel, like other states, did not join the Rome Statute due to concerns that the court would be exploited as a political tool rather than fulfilling its original purpose. Today, the Office of the Prosecutor has proven that these concerns were justified.”

Ministry officials will convene on Sunday to examine Israel’s options for action.

The ICC for years has been threatening to probe Israel over alleged war crimes it committed and the PA has been pushing to have Israel tried at the ICC for alleged war crimes and as a means of challenging the legality of the Jewish state.

This ICC statement is the latest step in a battle that has been waged for over half a decade.

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