Israel responds to ICC: You have no jurisdiction over us

Israel responds to ICC: You have no jurisdiction over us

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 that the court has no jurisdiction to open the probe, consistent with Israel’s longstanding position on the matter, in a response letter to The Hague.

The letter will also say 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 Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda sent to the Jewish state last month.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi and Defense Minister Benny Gantz met for a second time on the matter 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.

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Netanyahu said during the discussion that “while IDF soldiers fight with supreme morality against terrorists that commit war crimes daily, the court in The Hague decided to denounce Israel.

“There is no other word for this than hypocrisy,” Netanyahu said. “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 would involve member states, and that it does not intervene in countries with judiciaries able to fairly prosecute cases of crimes against humanity.

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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 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,” the PMO added.

In addition, though the Palestinian Authority is a party to the Rome Statute establishing the ICC, Israel has argued that 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 and Canada in a letter to the United Nations.

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Last month, Bensouda announced that she is opening a war crimes investigation against Israel. The probe 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 suits are Netanyahu and Gantz, who was IDF chief of staff in 2014, as well as hundreds of IDF officers.

Labor leader Merav Michaeli said “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.

“Netanyahu’s behavior can incur a heavy price for IDF officers and soldiers,” she warned. “Netanyahu is endangering Israel; Netanyahu must go.” 

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