Israel might be the first democracy the International Criminal Court investigates for fighting terrorists but it won’t be the last, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told world leaders in recent days as part of Jerusalem’s campaign to scuttle the ICC’s plan to investigate Israel for alleged war crimes.
As part of this message, Israel is arguing that misusing the international legal system poses a threat to the free world’s efforts to fight terrorism. According to this argument, if the ICC sets a precedent with Israel, any NGO then will be able to file charges against any country with combat troops battling terrorists.
Netanyahu, in meetings Monday with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Canadian Foreign Minister John Baird and a bi-partisan seven-member Senate delegation headed by Armed Services Committee chairman John McCain, discussed the ramifications of the ICC decision, as well as Iran’s nuclear program and Islamic State.
Before meeting with Baird, Netanyahu said Canada knows that “it’s a travesty of justice to haul Israel to the dock in the Hague and you know that the entire system of international law could unravel because of this travesty.”
Netanyahu thanked Baird for Canada’s support and “moral leadership” and for knowing who is the aggressor and who is the defender.
Israel, he said, “will not have its hands tied by a politicized ICC. We will fight terrorism on every front and we will defend our people against any threat as any democracy must.”
Baird, referred to his grandfather who fought in World War II, and said the great struggles of that generation were fighting fascism and then communism, while the great struggle of the current generation is terrorism.
“Far too often, the State of Israel and the Jewish people around the world are on the front lines of that struggle.
And as I’ve said before, Canada doesn’t stand behind Israel; we stand shoulder-to-shoulder with it,” he said.
At a meeting with Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon, Baird termed the Palestinian petition against Israel at the ICC a “huge mistake” and said he relayed that message to the Palestinian leaders he met Monday in Ramallah. As he left that meeting, Palestinian protesters pelted his motorcade with eggs and shoes.
The ICC also was at the top of the agenda during a meeting Netanyahu had with Abe, one of two he held with the Japanese leader on Monday. In reference to thwarting the ICC investigation, the prime minister said, “We will do what is necessary to defend ourselves wherever we need to do so.”
One government official said that, in the meeting with Abe, Attorney-General Yehuda Weinstein told the Japanese premier that if he were convinced Israel could get a fair hearing at the ICC, he would recommend that Israel take part.
“We have good legal arguments because we acted according to international law,” he said, adding, however, that he is not convinced Israel could get a fair hearing at the Hague.
At the beginning of the meeting with Abe, Netanyahu devoted much of his time to the Iranian threat, saying both Israel and Japan face “formidable threats from nearby rogue states” – Israel from Iran and Japan from North Korea.
Iran, Netanyahu said, “cannot be allowed to travel the road taken by North Korea,” a path, which he said led to an agreement with Pyongyang in 1994 that “was widely celebrated as a historic breakthrough for nonproliferation, but in the end, that deal failed to prevent the dangerous proliferation that threatens all of east Asia today.”
Netanyahu reiterated his position that, until a deal is reached that dismantles Iran’s military capability, the international sanctions on Iran must be maintained.
“Both Iran and North Korea are governed by ruthless and extreme dictatorships, states that seek to bully and intimidate their neighbors, and in our case, to actually eradicate us from the face of the Earth,” he said. “Iran and North Korea have aggressive military nuclear programs and they are both developing nuclear weapons and the means to deliver them, ballistic missiles.”
Abe, in his public comments, was non-committal on these issues.
Instead, he expressed his condolences for the Jews killed at the kosher market in Paris two weeks ago, spoke of the growing bilateral ties between the two countries, and discussed his visit earlier in the day to Yad Vashem.
He also said he would go to “Palestine” on Tuesday and “as a genuine friend, I might offer advice that may not be easy to swallow to both of the parties.”