Congress Urges Pompeo to Stop ‘Biased’ ICC from Probing Israel

U.S. Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo delivers the keynote address at the Celebration of Israel’s 71st Independence Day, at the Andrew W. Mellon Auditorium in Washington, D.C., on May 22, 2019. [State Department photo by Michael Gross/ Public Domain]
State Department/Michael Gross/ Public Domain

TEL AVIV –  The International Criminal Court (ICC) is “unfairly targeting Israel” and engaging in “dangerous politicization” in its bid to investigate Jerusalem and Washington over unsubstantiated war crimes claimed by the Palestinians, a letter signed by 69 senators and 262 House representatives and sent on Wednesday to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said. 

The letter, which demonstrated a rare act of consensus among the supermajority bipartisan group, urged Pompeo to call on the ICC to stop the proceedings which it said were politically motivated.

Since neither the U.S. nor Israel are members of the ICC, the letter argued, the court had no jurisdiction to make a ruling.

U.S. Senators Rob Portman (R-OH) and Ben Cardin (D-MD), who spearheaded the Senate version of the letter, said it marks “a dangerous precedent that undermines the purposes for which the court was founded.”

“By accepting Palestinian territorial claims over the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and Gaza, the Prosecutor is making a political judgment that biases any subsequent investigation or trial,” the senators wrote, referencing the ICC’s top prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, who in December said that there was a “basis” to probe Israel’s actions in the Palestinian territories,” the two said in a statement.

“Establishing the boundaries of any future Palestinian state is a political decision that must be determined through negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians. Any ICC determination regarding its jurisdiction over the disputed territories or investigation of Israel would further hinder the path to peace. Moreover, politicizing the Court in this way could further weaken and undermine the ICC.”

The letter to Pompeo urged him to “give the matter his full attention.”

“We believe that the United States should stand in full force against any biased investigation of Israel. We ask that you give this matter your full attention and offer the State Department’s support for Israel,” it said.

“We are concerned that the court’s recent actions regarding the ‘Situation in Palestine’ have infused politics into the judicial process,” the letter by the members of Congress reads.

“We believe the prosecutor’s decision to investigate the Israeli-Palestinian situation and request to the Pre-Trial Chamber to determine the court’s jurisdiction over disputed territories constitutes a dangerous politicization of the court and distorts the purposes for which the court was established,” it continued.

The ICC should only be a “last resort for the prosecution of the most serious international crimes” and that since it has “never formally investigated any accusations within disputed territories; doing so now unfairly targets Israel.”

“By accepting Palestinian territorial claims over the West Bank, east Jerusalem and Gaza, the prosecutor is making a political judgment that biases any subsequent investigation or trial.”

Rep. Elaine Luria (D-Virginia, 2nd District), who together with Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-Wisconsin, 8th District) advanced the House version of the letter, said that the ICC’s actions were “yet another example of the international community’s disproportional attacks on Israel.”

Gallagher said: “It’s hard to get two members of Congress to agree on anything, let alone more than 260.”

“This overwhelming, bipartisan response is a testament to how the ICC’s politicized actions involving both the United States and Israel threaten its intended purpose. I hope Secretary Pompeo heeds this call and works with our allies to end these politically-motivated investigations.”

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