Israel and Jewish organizations decried the “scandalous” and “anti-Semitic” decision by the International Criminal Court in The Hague that gave itself jurisdiction to investigate Israelis on war crimes and subject them to arrest while traveling abroad.
In a 2-1 decision, released Friday, the ICC also declared that Palestine is a state.
Israel’s Security Cabinet issued a statement on Sunday night saying that it “completely rejects the scandalous decision of the court that could enable the investigation of Israel for false war crimes.”
“The Cabinet determines that the court has no authority to make such a decision. Israel is not a member of the international court and the Palestinian Authority does not have the status of a state,” the cabinet insisted. “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.”
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed to fight the decision and noted that the court is targeting Israel while ignoring war crimes in “Iran and Syria, who commit horrific atrocities almost daily.”
“When the ICC investigates Israel for fake war crimes – this is pure anti-Semitism,” he said. “The court established to prevent atrocities like the Nazi Holocaust against the Jewish people is now targeting the one state of the Jewish people. First, it outrageously claims that when Jews live in our homeland, this is a war crime. Second, it claims that when democratic Israel defends itself against terrorists who murder our children and rocket our cities — we are committing another war crime.”
Palestinians, on the other hand, were thrilled. Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Mohammed Shtayyeh called it “a victory for justice and humanity, for the values of truth, fairness and freedom, and for the blood of the victims and their families.”
U.S. State Department spokesman Ned Price said the Biden administration had “serious concerns about the ICC’s attempts to exercise its jurisdiction over Israeli personnel.”
Neither the U.S. nor Israel are members of the ICC. The Palestinian Authority is and had requested that the ICC investigate the 2014 conflagration between Israel and Hamas in Gaza. Only one judge, judges, Péter Kovács, said the court had no jurisdiction in this case.
ICC chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda has previously said that there is a “reasonable basis to believe” that war crimes had been committed by both sides but she also noted what she called Israel’s disproportionate use of force in various instances.
If the court goes forward with a trial, any Israelis or Hamas operatives that are convicted of war crimes could be arrested while traveling abroad.
Israel’s Ambassador to the United States and United Nations Gilad Erdan called the ruling “distorted and anti-Semitic” and said the ICC has no jurisdiction.
“The decision is an attack, not only against Israel but against all democracies, undermining the ability to defend civilians against terrorism,” he said. “The court was established to investigate the world’s gravest war crimes, but instead it meddles in political disputes, rewarding Palestinian terrorists and pushing the Palestinians further away from the momentum of peace now taking place in our region.”
NGO Monitor and three other groups filed an amicus brief with the ICC which argues that the ICC has no jurisdiction.
“The fact that Palestine is not a state, that the Oslo Accords expressly prevent the court from asserting jurisdiction, and that the prosecutor made up a fake rule to go after the Jewish state, were ignored,” NGO Monitor Legal Advisor Anne Herzberg said. “And the judges have repeatedly flouted the ICC’s own procedures to try and manufacture a case against Israel.”
Alan Baker, director of the Institute for Contemporary Affairs at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, former Israeli ambassador to Canada and a negotiator of the Oslo Accords, argued that the Palestinians have absolutely no standing in the court and that the ICC has become “politically manipulated and abused.”
“What was intended to be an apolitical juridical body, devoid of political pressure and influence, has now permitted itself to become one more ‘Israel-bashing body’ at the disposal of those elements in the international community seeking to undermine Israel's legitimacy,” Baker wrote for JCPA and Times of Israel.
“It is both tragic and ironic that the State of Israel, one of the founding fathers of the vision of creating an independent International Criminal Court after the unimaginable atrocities committed against the Jewish people during the Holocaust, has now become the target of that very International Criminal Court based on Palestinian political manipulation,” he said.
The All Israel News Staff is a team of journalists in Israel.