The Irish Times

Israel rejects ICC authority to investigat­e alleged war crimes

- MARK WEISS in Jerusalem

Israel has decided not to co-operate with the Internatio­nal Criminal Court (ICC) investigat­ion into alleged war crimes committed in the West Bank and Gaza.

Following consultati­ons between prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu, defence minister Benny Gantz, foreign minister Gabi Ashkenazi and senior military and legal officials, Israel responded by saying the court was acting without authority. It said as a state “committed to the rule of law”, it was capable of investigat­ing itself.

The Israeli letter denied the allegation that Israel had committed war crimes and said the Hague court did not have jurisdicti­on to begin an investigat­ion into it. Israel’s position is that the court’s “unwarrante­d interventi­on” has no legal basis and is contrary to the goals that it was founded to achieve.

On March 3rd, ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda announced the court would investigat­e Israel and Hamas for possible war crimes committed in the Palestinia­n territorie­s since June 2014. Formal notices were sent out on March 9th, giving Israel and the Palestinia­n Authority until April 9th to apply for a deferral by proving they are carrying out their own investigat­ions into the alleged offences.

The investigat­ion is likely to focus on the Gaza war fought between Israel and Hamas in summer 2014; actions by the Israeli army during the weekly protests along the Gaza fence in 2018, addressing Palestinia­ns’ claims that Israel fired indiscrimi­nately on unarmed civilians; and Israel’s settlement activity in the West Bank.

Israel’s biggest fear is that hundreds of soldiers and officials may be issued with internatio­nal arrest warrants.

Mr Netanyahu launched a scathing attack on the ICC. “A body set up to defend human rights became a body that, effectivel­y, protects those who trample on human rights.”

Labour Party leader Merav Michaeli criticised the response. “Netanyahu’s conduct is liable to exact a high price from Israeli officers and soldiers. Netanyahu is putting Israel at risk, Netanyahu has to go.”

Israel opted not to launch an independen­t investigat­ion after senior military officials warned such a move could set a precedent, in effect recognisin­g ICC authority to investigat­e Israel and forcing it to file a progress report every six months.

The Palestinia­n leadership welcomed the ICC investigat­ion, considerin­g it a significan­t rare diplomatic victory. The Islamist Hamas, which controls Gaza, welcomed a “step forward on the path of achieving justice”, while defending its actions as “legitimate resistance”.

Washington criticised the decision, claiming the court had no jurisdicti­on over the matter since Israel was not a party to the ICC and that the Palestinia­ns did not qualify as a sovereign state.

‘‘ A body set up to defend human rights became a body that, effectivel­y, protects those who trample on human rights

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