Israel will not cooperate with the International Criminal Court’s investigation of Israel for alleged war crimes, top ministers decided on Thursday.
The state will argue in a letter of response to The Hague that the court has no jurisdiction to open the probe, consistent with Israel’s longstanding position.
The letter will also declare that Israel rejects the accusation that it committed war crimes.
Israel is not a member of the ICC, and has a policy of not cooperating with it, such that it was unclear that the government would respond at all to the letter Chief Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda sent to last month.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi and Defense Minister Benny Gantz met for a second time on Thursday, one day before the deadline for Israel to respond to Bensouda’s letter. Also at the meeting were Strategic Affairs Minister Michael Biton, Education Minister Yoav Gallant, Energy and Water Minister Yuval Steinitz, Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit, National Security Council head Meir Ben-Shabbat, and IDF Chief Military Advocate Sharon Afek, among others.
“While IDF soldiers fight with supreme morality against terrorists that commit war crimes daily, the court in The Hague decided to denounce Israel,” Netanyahu said in the discussion. “There is no other word for this than hypocrisy. A body established to fight for human rights turned into a hostile body that defends those who trample human rights.”
The Israeli argument is based on the court’s own rules, which state that its cases involve member states, and that it does not intervene in countries with judiciaries able to fairly prosecute cases of crimes against humanity.
The government’s letter will say Israel has its own independent judiciary capable of trying soldiers who commit war crimes.
The Prime Minister’s Office said the ICC’s “unprecedented intervention lacks any legal basis and opposes the purposes for which it was established. Israel is committed to the rule of law and will continue to investigate any accusation against it, regardless of its source, and expects the court to avoid violating its jurisdiction and authority.”
Moreover, Israel has argued that although the Palestinian Authority is a party to the Rome Statute that established the ICC, it is not a state and therefore cannot legally be a member of the court. The PA submitted the complaint against Israel, which led to the investigation.
These arguments were made by seven ICC member states – Germany, Czech Republic, Hungary, Brazil, Uganda, Austria, and Australia – in letters to the court, Canada and the United Nations.
Bensouda announced last month that she would open a war crimes investigation against Israel tat is expected to include 2014’s Operation Protective Edge, the riots at the Gaza border in 2018, and the settlement enterprise, including east Jerusalem.
Among the senior officials who could be vulnerable to war crimes law suits are Netanyahu and Gantz, who was IDF chief of staff in 2014, as well as hundreds of IDF officers.
“The government should have worked day and night to ensure that such a decision would have never been made by The Hague, but it is in dereliction of its duty,” said Labor leader Merav Michaeli. “Netanyahu’s behavior can incur a heavy price for IDF officers and soldiers. Netanyahu is endangering Israel; Netanyahu must go.”