The International Criminal Court’s decision to investigate Israel is an attempt to tie Israel’s hands and keep it from defending itself against terrorism, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Sunday.
Speaking at the weekly cabinet meeting, Netanyahu said the moves would not deter Israel from doing what it feels it needs to do to defend itself, and will fight against the ICC moves with full force, as well as enlist others to do so as well.
His chance to enlist others will come on Monday, when he is scheduled to meet Japan’s visiting Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Canada’s Foreign Minister John Baird, and a bipartisan delegation of nine US senators headed by Sen. John McCain, the head of the senate’s Armed Services Committee. The ICC issue, and how to get the court to step back from investigating Israel, is expected to be a major point of those discussions.
Baird, who arrived at a meeting with Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman Sunday after being pelted with eggs and shoes as he left a meeting with Palestinian Authority officials in Ramallah, called the ICC decision “deeply regrettable.”
At an earlier meeting with President Reuven Rivlin, where Rivlin markedly contrasted the angry reception Baird received in Ramallah by breaking protocol and walking to the diplomat’s car to greet him there, Baird told the president that Canada does not stand behind Israel but, rather, shoulder to shoulder with it.
“States have not just a right but an obligation to defend their citizens,” Baird said in relation to the ICC issue. “Israel has one hand firmly tied behind its back, and we will not allow the international community to tie the other hand.”
Liberman gave an indication at the beginning of his meeting with Baird of one of the ways Israel would combat the ICC move, saying that if Israel does not see a “dramatic change” in the ICC position, “we will ask all our friends to stop any funding of the ICC.”
Canada is one of the founders of the ICC and, according to Liberman, one of the primary financial backers of the court, along with countries such as Germany and Australia.
Netanyahu, at the cabinet, said Israel would “defend Israel’s right to defend itself, and not allow IDF soldiers to be tried by an international tribunal.”
The prime minister characterized the ICC’s decision to begin a preliminary investigation as the “height of hypocrisy and the opposite of justice.”
Netanyahu – who said that as a former ambassador to the United Nations and as a prime minister, he has encountered hypocritical acts in the past – characterized the ICC decision as “being in a category all its own. This gives international cover to international terrorism.”
After the cabinet meeting, Netanyahu convened an urgent meeting of security, legal, and diplomatic officials to discuss how to battle the ICC decision. At that meeting, according to officials in the Prime Minister’s Office, it was decided to launch an information campaign underlining the ICC’s lack of jurisdiction in investigating Israel, its lack of authority to take up a petition by the PA because it is not a state, and its anti-Israel political bent.
Intelligence Minister Yuval Steinitz compared the ICC decision to the notorious Dreyfus Affair.
“This is a kangaroo court that acts according to public opinion, according to Israel’s position in the international media, according to a political decision by the UN General Assembly,” he said before the cabinet meeting. “It is a kangaroo court that reminds me of the Dreyfus Affair.”
Steinitz said that just as the French took a Jew, Dreyfus, and cast upon him the accusation of being a traitor, because public opinion and the French press were “comfortable with the idea of a Jewish traitor,” so too, he said, is the ICC now taking the Jewish state and investigating it.
“This is a modern Dreyfus trial, not against the Jewish officer Dreyfus but, rather, against the State of Israel defending itself,” he said.
Meanwhile, PA President Mahmoud Abbas said on Sunday that US Secretary of State John Kerry had warned him that Washington considers the Palestinian decision to join the ICC as a “nuclear option.”
Abbas said in an interview with an Egyptian online magazine that he nevertheless chose to ignore US pressure and proceed with plans to join the ICC and other international conventions and treaties.
Abbas said that his decision has resulted in the freezing of tax revenues belonging to the PA and threats against him personally.
“They [Israel] are now threatening my life,” Abbas said. “They have reminded me of the fate of Yasser Arafat. But I’m prepared for all options for the sake of achieving the dream of an independent Palestinian state with east Jerusalem as its capital.”
Regarding Arafat, the Palestinians also want the ICC to launch an investigation into his death, senior Fatah official Jamal Muheissen announced on Sunday. Muheissen, a member of the Fatah Central Committee, claimed that Israel was responsible for Arafat’s death in November 2004.
“This file will be presented to the International Criminal Court,” Muheissen told the Palestinian Shams News Agency. “We want to bring the Israeli occupation to trial for every crime it committed against our people.”
The Fatah official also said Israel is issuing threats to Abbas because of the matter.
“President Abbas is receiving threats from Israel because of his decision to join the International Criminal Court,” Muheissen added.
“It’s important for all Palestinians to be united in this political battle against the Israeli occupation.”
Greer Fay Cashman contributed to this report.