Israel responds to the ICC: it has no jurisdiction over us

Israel will not cooperate with Israel’s investigation by the International Criminal Court for alleged war crimes, top ministers decided Thursday.

The state will argue that the court does not have jurisdiction to open the investigation, consistent with Israel’s long-standing position on the matter, in a response letter to The Hague.

The letter will also say that Israel rejects the accusation of having committed war crimes.

Israel is not a member of the ICC and has a policy of not cooperating with it, so it was not clear that the government would respond at all to the letter that 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 the second time on the matter on Thursday, a day before the deadline for Israel to respond to Bensouda’s letter. Also attending the meeting were the Minister of Strategic Affairs, Michael Biton, the Minister of Education, Yoav Gallant, the Minister of Energy and Water, Yuval Steinitz, the Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit, the head of the National Security Council, Meir Ben-Shabbat , and the IDF’s top military defender, Sharon Afek, among others.

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

“There is no other word for this than hypocrisy,” Netanyahu said. “A body created to fight for human rights became 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 judicial powers capable of fairly prosecuting cases of crimes against humanity.

The government letter will say that Israel has its own independent judiciary capable of trying soldiers who commit war crimes.

The Prime Minister’s Office said the “unprecedented intervention by the ICC lacks a legal basis and runs counter to the purposes for which it was established.”

“Israel is committed to the rule of law and will continue to investigate any allegation against it, regardless of its source, and hopes that the court will avoid violating its jurisdiction and authority,” the PMO added.

Furthermore, although the Palestinian Authority is part of the Rome Statute that establishes the ICC, Israel has argued that it is not a state and therefore cannot legally be a member of the court. The Palestinian Authority filed the complaint against Israel that led to the investigation.

These arguments were presented by seven ICC member states – Germany, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Brazil, Uganda, Austria and Australia – in letters to the court and Canada in a letter to the United Nations.

Last month, Bensouda announced that he is opening a war crimes investigation against Israel. The investigation is expected to include the 2014 Operation Protective Edge, the 2018 Gaza border riots and the settlement undertaking, including East Jerusalem. Among the senior officials who could be vulnerable to war crimes lawsuits are Netanyahu and Gantz, who was the IDF chief of staff in 2014, as well as hundreds of IDF officers.

Labor leader Merav Michaeli said “the government should have worked around the clock to make sure The Hague never made that decision, but it is failing in its duty.”

“Netanyahu’s behavior may incur a heavy price for IDF officers and soldiers,” he warned. “Netanyahu is putting Israel in danger; Netanyahu must go.”

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