Cabinet: ICC standing with antisemites in decision to probe Israel

Netanyahu calls leaders to push back against Israel war crimes probe; US VP Harris signed letter against ICC action on Israel when senator.

A bloodied Israeli flag hangs on the main building at the University of Cape Town on Monday at the start of Israel-Apartheid Week. (photo credit: SAUJS/FACEBOOK)
A bloodied Israeli flag hangs on the main building at the University of Cape Town on Monday at the start of Israel-Apartheid Week.
(photo credit: SAUJS/FACEBOOK)
The International Criminal Court is in line with antisemitic organizations in its ruling that Israel may be investigated for war crimes, Israel’s Security Cabinet said on Sunday.
In a rare public statement, the Security Cabinet rejected the ICC’s “outrageous” decision. The cabinet pointed out that Israel is not a member of the court and the Palestinian Authority, which did join the Rome Statute establishing the court, does not meet the international standard for statehood, and, as such, said the ICC does not have the jurisdiction to investigate Israel.
The ICC’s Pre-Trial Chamber ruled on Friday that it has the jurisdiction to probe war crimes allegations in Gaza, the West Bank and east Jerusalem committed since June 13, 2014, including possible lawsuits against Netanyahu, defense ministers and other high-level officials, as well as soldiers and commanders. The investigation includes Operation Protective Edge and settlement activity.
The cabinet said that the ICC decision “exposes the court as a political body aligned with international organizations that are motivated by antisemitism.
“The international court was established to prevent horrors such as those that were perpetrated by the Nazis against the Jewish people. Instead, it is persecuting the state of the Jewish people. Even as it allows the investigation of Israel, the only democracy in the Middle East that is committed to the rule of law, the court shuts its eyes to the awful war crimes being perpetrated time and again by dark dictatorships such as Iran and Syria.”
The cabinet also took issue with the probe focusing, in part, on Israelis living in Judea and Samaria.
“The claim that Jews living in their homeland and their capital of Jerusalem constitutes a war crime is scandalous. Also, the claim that the IDF – there is no more ethical army – is carrying out war crimes even as it protects us from terrorists that launch rockets at our cities – is no less scandalous,” the statement reads.
Earlier Sunday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other top officials appealed to Israeli allies around the world to push back against the ICC ruling.
Netanyahu has reached out to world leaders on the phone and through letters, presenting Israel’s position that the investigation is not legitimate.
Ambassador to the US Gilad Erdan and spoke with officials in the White House after the announcement was made, and was given reassurances that they share Israel’s position on the matter. Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi spoke with senior officials in the Biden administration and thanked them for their support.
An Israeli government official involved in the matter said the ICC ruling “didn’t come as a surprise. There was a whole set of activities in place and we were ready to go.” Officials in the Prime Minister’s Office, National Security Council, Foreign Ministry, Justice Ministry and the IDF have been working on the matter.
Several members of the court expressed its opposition to the ICC investigation titled the “Situation in Palestine” before this week’s ruling: Australia, Germany, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Australia, Austria, Brazil, Uganda and Canada. The Israeli official expressed hope that those countries will respond to the ICC’s decision.
Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne reaffirmed Canberra’s position that ICC should not get involved in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, expressing “deep concerns” about the ruling.
“Australia does not recognize a ‘State of Palestine,’ noting that matters relating to territory and borders can only be resolved through direct negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians,” Payne said on Saturday. “We made clear in our observations submitted to the Pre-Trial Chamber that Australia does not therefore recognize the right of any so-called ‘State of Palestine’ to accede to the Rome Statute. The [ICC] should not exercise jurisdiction in this matter.”
CANADIAN FOREIGN Minister Marc Garneau also weighed in, saying his country “is firmly committed to a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict...The creation of a Palestinian state can only be achieved through direct negotiations between the parties. Until such negotiations succeed, Canada’s longstanding position remains that it does not recognize a Palestinian state and therefore does not recognize its accession to” the ICC.
On Saturday night, US State Department Spokesperson Ned Price said: “We do not believe the Palestinians qualify as a sovereign state...We have serious concerns about the ICC’s attempts to exercise its jurisdiction over Israeli personnel. The United States has always taken the position that the court’s jurisdiction should be reserved for countries that consent to it, or that are referred by the UN Security Council.”
Another indication of US President Joe Biden’s thinking on the matter may be that he has used executive orders to overturn dozens of former president Donald Trump’s policies, but lifting sanctions on ICC officials is not one of them.
The Trump administration said the ICC infringed on American national sovereignty by authorizing a probe into alleged war crimes by US troops in Afghanistan, As such, it sanctioned dozens of ICC staff members, including Bensouda, freezing their assets in the US and banning them from traveling to the US to investigate American citizens without US consent.
In late January, a State Department spokesman told Reuters that the sanctions will be “thoroughly reviewed,” but that “we disagree with the ICC’s actions relating to the Afghanistan and Israeli/Palestinian situations.”
US Vice President Kamala Harris signed a letter last year, when she was a senator, calling the ICC’s intentions towards Israel “dangerous” and stating that “the US should stand in full force” against them.
The bipartisan letter urged then-secretary of state Mike Pompeo to “stand in full force against any biased investigation of Israel” by the ICC. The leading signatories are Senators Ben Cardin of Maryland, a Democrat, and Rob Portman of Ohio, a Republican, and nearly 67 other senators, including Harris, joined them.
The letter came in May 2020, six months after ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda announced that she thought there was “a reasonable basis to proceed with an investigation” into alleged crimes by Israelis and Palestinians.
That announcement “constitutes a dangerous politicization of the Court and distorts the purposes for which the court was established,” the senators wrote, pointing out that it was meant to be a court of last resort for prosecuting serious international crimes.
“ICC actions currently underway could lead to the prosecution of Israeli nationals despite the fact the ICC does not enjoy legitimate jurisdiction in this case,” the letter reads. “Both Democratic and Republican administrations have refused to join the Court in part because they feared its politicization and misuse.”
The senators point out that “Palestine” does not meet the criteria for statehood, that Israel – as well as the US – are not members of the court and that the court’s own rules “prohibit it from prosecuting cases against a country that has a robust judicial system willing and able to prosecute war crimes of its personnel,” which Israel has.
“By accepting Palestinian territorial claims over the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and Gaza, the Prosecutor is making a political judgment that biases any subsequent investigation or trial,” the letter states. “Establishing the boundaries of any future Palestinian state is a political decision that must be determined through negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians. Any ICC determination regarding its jurisdiction over the disputed territories or investigation of Israel would further hinder the path to peace.”