Israel is reportedly preparing to notify the International Criminal Court (ICC) that it does not believe it has the authority to probe alleged war crimes by Israel and Palestinians, as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu rejects it as “outrageous”.
Israel’s Prime Minister’s Office has this week confirmed that in its formal response to The Hague-based court’s controversial ruling that it has jurisdiction to pursue and open a war crimes probe, it will say it will not cooperate with the investigation.
It is expected Israel will “completely reject the claims that it is carrying out war crimes”, and will join a number of other countries who have already notified the court that they do not believe the court has the authority to pursue such an investigation.
Israel will reportedly notify the ICC that it is “committed to the rule of law” and demonstrably capable of investigating itself.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu this week described the ICC decision as “outrageous” and stated that Israel has “every right to defend themselves from their enemies”. During a speech marking Holocaust Memorial Day, Mr Netanyahu spoke of how a “body formed to defend human rights has become a body that in actuality defends those who trample on human rights”.
Last month, the ICC sent formal notices to Israel and the Palestinian Authority about the impending investigation, giving them a few weeks to seek a deferral by proving they are carrying out their own investigations. The deadline to respond is Friday night.
Israeli media has reported that the country may ask for more time to file a response, citing the political situation and efforts to form a government after inconclusive elections on March 23.
The ICC’s Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda announced on March 3 that she was opening an investigation into actions committed by Israel and the Palestinians in the West Bank, Gaza, and East Jerusalem since 2014. The announcement of the investigation came less than a month after the court ruled it had the jurisdiction to open a probe.
The ICC announcement followed a request by the Palestinians, who joined the court in 2015 after being granted non-member observer status in the UN General Assembly.
Israel has repeatedly criticised the investigation, accusing the ICC of bias – including its controversial decision to time the investigations to start after the kidnapping and murder of three Israeli teenagers by Hamas on June 12 2014, which is widely accepted as the cause of the military operation against Hamas that summer. The ICC’s acceptance of the Palestinian request that the investigation begin a day afterwards has been strongly condemned by Israel.