Israel on Sunday condemned the International Criminal Court (ICC) after it ruled The Hague has jurisdiction to open a criminal investigation against Israel for alleged war crimes.
The ICC’s top prosecutor Fatou Bensouda (pictured) in 2019 said there is a “basis” to probe Israel’s actions in the Palestinian territories, including alleged war crimes in Gaza during 2014’s Operation Protective Edge.
“Today the ICC proved once again that it is a political body and not a judicial institution,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said. “The ICC ignores the real war crimes and instead pursues the State of Israel, a state with a strong democratic government that sanctifies the rule of law, and is not a member of the ICC.”
He added the ruling meant the ICC “violated the right of democracies to defend themselves against terrorism, and played into the hands of those who undermine efforts to expand the circle of peace. We will continue to protect our citizens and soldiers in every way from legal persecution.”
Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi said the decision “rewards Palestinian terrorism and the PA’s refusal to return to direct negotiations with Israel, effectively contributing to further polarization between the parties.”
“We call on all states that see the importance in the international legal system and oppose its political exploitation, to respect the sovereign right of states to choose not to agree to the jurisdiction of the tribunal,” he added.
Leader of the Yamina party Naftali Bennett slammed the “fake court.”
“Let me be clear, the ICC has no right to investigate, no right to indict, no right to try and no right to convict any Israeli whatsoever,” Bennett said. “The International Criminal Court is a sham.”
Quoting a document called the “Spirit of the Israel Defense Forces” carried by all Israeli soldiers, Bennett said: “The soldier should make use of his weaponry in power, only for the fulfillment of the mission and solely to the extent required. He will maintain his humanity, even in combat.”
“We don’t need anyone to lecture us about morality,” he went on.
“In Gaza, Hamas stores weapons in schools, it digs tunnels under mosques and fires rockets from within hospitals.”
He went on to say if indeed the ICC is compiling a list of Israeli suspects, that he be placed at the top of the list.
שתפו עם העולם: אנחנו נגן על חיילי צה"ל מול קרקס הצביעות של בית הדין בהאג.
אם יש רשימת חשודים, הציבו אותי בראש הרשימה.
My response to the ICC decision: If it's true that the ICC is making a list of so-called Israeli suspects, I ask that my name be put at the top of that list. pic.twitter.com/Qnz8wqRxn3
— Naftali Bennett בנט (@naftalibennett) February 7, 2021
Netanyahu rival and New Hope leader Gideo Sa’ar said the ruling was “dangerous” and “promotes terror and pushes off any hope for peace.”
“It is yet another example of how the Palestinian Authority is working to hijack international institutions to attack Israel,” Sa’ar said.
“Shame on the ICC, for allowing sponsors of terror to abuse the cause of justice,” he added.
החלטת בית משפט הבינלאומי בהאג – מסוכנת ומבישה.
כראש ממשלה אשמור על זכותה של ישראל להגן על אזרחיה. pic.twitter.com/yBBczenfQ1
— Gideon Sa'ar | גדעון סער (@gidonsaar) February 7, 2021
The Palestinian leadership hailed the decision, with Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Mohammed Shtayyeh calling 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.”
“It is message to perpetrators that they will not go unpunished,” Shtayyeh added.
The U.S. did not condemn the decision outright but did highlight “serious concerns” regarding the “ICC’s attempts to exercise its jurisdiction over Israeli personnel,” State Department spokesman Ned Price said in a statement.
“We have always taken a position that the court’s jurisdiction should be reserved for countries that consent to or that are referred to by the UN Security Council,” Price added.
If Israel are convicted of war crimes for the 2014 conflict against the Hamas terror group in Gaza, Netanyahu, defense ministers and other high-level officials could be subject to international arrest warrants upon travel abroad.
In September 2020, the Trump administration imposed sanctions on senior ICC officials, including chief prosecutor Bensouda, on charges of “illegitimate attempts to subject Americans to its jurisdiction.”