Israel making 'secret' IDF officials list fearing ICC arrests - report

ICC Chief Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda said she believed "war crimes have been or are being committed in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip."

IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kochavi speaks at the officers graduation ceremony, July 1st, 2020 (photo credit: IDF SPOKESMAN’S UNIT)
IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kochavi speaks at the officers graduation ceremony, July 1st, 2020
(photo credit: IDF SPOKESMAN’S UNIT)
Israel began creating a list of defense establishment officials likely to be arrested if the International Criminal Court (ICC) goes through with an investigation into alleged Israeli war crimes, Haaretz reported Thursday.

According to the media outlet, the contents of the list remain confidential, as the ICC may view the officials inclusion as a confirmation of their alleged crimes against the Palestinians. As of Thursday, the list reportedly named between 200-300 officials from the state's defense establishment, not all of whom have been notified of their inclusion. 

According to Haaretz, Israeli authorities consider barring the individuals named on the list from being able to leave the country as they are likely to be arrested, detained or put on trial in case the ICC probe officially becomes a criminal investigation.

In late December 2019, ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda issued a statement, saying she was "satisfied that there is a reasonable basis to proceed with an investigation into the situation in Palestine, pursuant to article 53(1) of the Statute."

She continued, saying her probe gave basis to believe "war crimes have been or are being committed in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip," adding that "potential cases arising from the situation would be admissible."

According to Bensouda, "there are no substantial reasons to believe that an investigation would not serve the interests of justice."

While the ICC says it has gathered sufficient evidence to believe there is reasonable basis for an investigation into alleged Israeli war crimes, the court has not yet ruled whether it has jurisdiction over the territory in which the offenses are claimed to have been committed.

The ICC petition was made by the partially-recognized State of Palestine, officially represented by the Palestinian Authority (PA). Besides the West Bank, partially controlled by the PA, the semi-recognized state also claims the Gaza Strip, controlled by Hamas since a violent takeover in June 2007..

With Palestine being recognized as an observer state by the UN, the Palestinian Authority ratified the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court in 2015. With Israel not ratifying the Rome Statute, it remains to be decided upon whether the ICC does or does not have legal jurisdiction in the are claimed by the Palestinians.

The issue of the court's legal jurisdiction has not been decided upon as of yet, with the ICC going on summer recess on Friday. According to Walla, officials have estimated the ruling will only be made after the recess is over on August 13.

The US has threatened sanctions against the ICC if the court were to proceed with a case against Israel or the US. In June, US President Donald Trump issued an executive order authorizing sanctions against ICC employees involved into alleged war crimes committed by US troops in Afghanistan, Reuters reported.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the ICC "chases American soldiers" and "threatens to investigate Israel for alleged war crimes, according to Kan. He added that "it is clear that the court is looking at Israel unfairly."