IDF legal chief Afek: ICC probe of Israel part of PA delegitimization attempt

"The ICC does not have jurisdiction over the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. But even if it had such jurisdiction, Israel is a law-abiding state with a strong and independent justice system."

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May 29, 2019 01:43
2 minute read.
MILITARY ADVOCATE-GENERAL Sharon Afek

MILITARY ADVOCATE-GENERAL Sharon Afek. (photo credit: TOMER NEUBERG)

The International Criminal Court preliminary review of war crime allegations against Israelis is part of the Palestinian Authority’s delegitimization and diplomatic campaign against Israel, IDF Military Advocate General Maj.-Gen. Sharon Afek said at a Herzliya conference on Tuesday.

Speaking at the third IDF-sponsored gathering of top foreign military and academic experts on the laws of war from around the world, Afek said that, “As part of its campaign of lawfare and delegitimization, the Palestinian Authority is vigorously pushing for an ICC investigation of Israel.”

He said that, “We see these efforts as yet another attempt to abuse legal institutions in order to achieve political aims. These efforts serve to undermine the function and perception of the ICC.”

Continuing, Afek said that, “It is our firm position that the ICC does not have jurisdiction over the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. But even if it had such jurisdiction, Israel is a law-abiding state with a strong and independent justice system.”

“Israel’s actions are not relevant subject-matter for the ICC... Rather than serving as a court of last resort for cases of mass atrocities, the court is diverted from its main purpose and from situations within the court’s jurisdiction that really deserve its attention and limited resources,” he said.

Discussing the situation with Hezbollah in Lebanon, the IDF chief lawyer said that Hezbollah has systematically stored its missiles for attacking Israel under high-rise buildings and in other urban areas.

He quoted an October 2018 report by top former US military officials who warned that Hezbollah’s war strategy and use of civilian areas for storing its weapons would force the IDF’s hand in response, potentially translating in a conflict of an “unparalleled death and destruction.”

Afek also noted Iran’s involvement with Hezbollah and raised the question about what legal implications might derive from Iran’s activities through its main proxy.

Moving to Syria, he said that the biggest challenge for the IDF’s lawyers was incorporating the military’s intelligence assessments to properly guide military planners on who it is legal to strike.

This was a highly complex process, he noted, since there are so many groups operating in Syria without always openly sharing which forces they identify with and with the mix of those forces shifting so rapidly over the last year.

Confronting law and war issues between Israel and Hamas in Gaza, he emphasized the difficulty for the IDF of crafting a response to the ongoing Gaza border conflict.

He stated that the Gazan protests on the border are being directed by Hamas, but include both militants and civilians.

Also, he added that Hamas is trying to exploit civilians to deceive the world into believing that Israel is wrongly and deliberately opening fire on defenseless civilians.


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