Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said Israel will not cooperate with the ICC’s investigation into alleged war crimes in the occupied Palestinian territories.
Israel will tell the International Criminal Court (ICC) that it does not recognize the authority of the tribunal, which plans to investigate possible war crimes in the occupied Palestinian territories, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said.
Netanyahu, after meeting with ministers and government officials ahead of Friday’s deadline to respond to an ICC notification letter, said Israel will not cooperate with the investigation, but will send a response.
“It will be clear that Israel is a country with the rule of law that knows how to investigate itself,” he said in a statement Thursday. The response will also say that Israel “completely rejects” the claim that it has committed war crimes.
The statement added that the ICC “does not have the power to open an investigation against Israel” and does not cooperate with it.
Israel is not a party to the Rome Statute which established the ICC and, therefore, by definition, is not a party to the Court.
ICC prosecutors, who have identified groups on both the Israeli and Palestinian sides as possible perpetrators, said letters were sent on March 9 to all parties involved, giving them a month to notify the court if they were conducting their own investigations into the alleged crimes and want an ICC investigation postponed while this continues.
“ Crimes committed on both sides ”
The Palestinian Authority, based in the occupied West Bank, has been a state party to the ICC since 2015. The Palestinians welcomed the investigation and said they would not ask for any postponement.
The world’s only permanent war crimes tribunal, the ICC was created in 2002 to try mankind’s worst crimes when local courts were unwilling or unable to intervene.
ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda said her investigation would cover the situation since 2014 in the besieged Gaza Strip, the occupied West Bank and occupied East Jerusalem.
It will mainly focus on the Gaza war in 2014, but also on the deaths of Palestinian protesters from 2018.
After a five-year preliminary investigation, Bensouda said there was a “reasonable basis” to believe that crimes were committed by both sides – by the IDF, Hamas – which has controlled Gaza since 2007 – and other Palestinian armed groups.
Hamas praised the ICC investigation and argued that its attacks on Israel were justified acts of “resistance”.
The PA has also expressed its willingness to cooperate with the ICC.
“We sent the response to the ICC,” said Omar Awadallah, a senior official in the Palestinian Foreign Ministry.
“Full cooperation with the ICC will continue on the part of the State of Palestine, as a member state of the Court, to bring justice to the victims of the Palestinian people and to hold Israel accountable for its crimes,” Awadallah said.
Netanyahu, a vocal critic of the ICC, on Thursday accused the court of “hypocrisy” for targeting Israeli troops who “fight with high morals against terrorists.”
Israel’s longest-serving prime minister has previously criticized the decision to open the investigation as “the essence of anti-Semitism” and said Israel was “under attack”.
Thursday’s statement marked the first time Netanyahu made it clear that Israel would not engage directly with the ICC. The United States has also criticized the ICC investigation and expressed support for its ally Israel.
The ICC last week welcomed the lifting of sanctions imposed by Donald Trump on Bensouda by US President Joe Biden, saying it marked a new era of cooperation with Washington.
The Trump administration imposed the financial sanctions and visa ban on Bensouda last year, after it opened an investigation into alleged war crimes committed by U.S. military personnel in Afghanistan.