On February 5th, The International Criminal Court said that its jurisdiction extends to territories occupied by Israel in the 1967 Mideast war, clearing the way for its chief prosecutor to open a war crimes probe into Israeli military actions.
The decision was welcomed by the Palestinians and decried by Israel’s prime minister, who accused the court of “legal persecution.”
The ICC’s chief prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, said in 2019 that there was a “reasonable basis” to open a war crimes probe into Israeli military actions in the Gaza Strip as well as Israeli settlement activity in the occupied West Bank. But she asked the court to determine whether she has territorial jurisdiction before proceeding.
The ICC could also potentially investigate alleged crimes committed by Palestinian groups. Bensouda said her probe would look into the actions of Hamas, which fired rockets indiscriminately into Israel during the 2014 war.
Nabil Shaath, a senior aide to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, welcomed the decision and said it proved the Palestinians were right to go to the ICC. “This is good news, and the next step is to launch an official investigation into Israel’s crimes against our people,” he said.
The Palestinians have asked the court to look into Israeli actions during its 2014 war against Palestinian groups in the Gaza Strip, as well as Israel’s construction of settlements in the occupied West Bank and annexed east Jerusalem.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the decision “proves once again the court is a political body and not a legal institution.”
He said the decision “hurt the right of democratic countries to defend themselves in the face of terror,” and added: “We will continue to use all means to defend our citizens and soldiers in the face of legal persecution.”
In Washington, U.S. State Department spokesman Ned Price told reporters that the Biden administration was aware of the announcement and was looking into it.
“However, we have serious concerns about the ICC’s attempts to exercise jurisdiction over Israeli personnel,” Price said. “We have always taken the position that the court’s jurisdiction should be reserved for those who consent to it or are referred by the U.N. Security Council.”
This is also possible since the Biden Administration appears to not be as supportive as the Trump Administration was for Israel’s activity. This is not certain, however.
Human Rights Watch welcomed the decision, saying it “finally offers victims of serious crimes some real hope for justice after a half century of impunity.”
“It’s high time that Israeli and Palestinian perpetrators of the gravest abuses — whether war crimes committed during hostilities or the expansion of unlawful settlements — face justice,” said Balkees Jarrah, associate international justice director at the New York-based group.
Earlier, the US warned all ICC representatives against investigating Israeli or US conduct and that they had no jurisdiction on them.
On September 2nd, 2020, the United States imposed sanctions on the International Criminal Court (ICC) prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, and another senior prosecution official, Phakiso Mochochoko. In addition, US Secretary of State Michael Pompeo announced that the United States had restricted the issuance of visas for certain unnamed individuals “involved in the ICC’s efforts to investigate US personnel.”
Meanwhile, the normalization in relations between Israel and the UAE and Bahrain, apparently may not be working as intended.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has indefinitely postponed planned visits this month to the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, citing Israel’s coronavirus travel restrictions.
Netanyahu has said he plans to visit Israel’s new Gulf partners for several months. It would be the first official visit by an Israeli prime minister.
His office said in a statement that “despite the importance of the trip to Abu Dhabi and Bahrain, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has decided to postpone the visit at this stage because of the closed skies.”
It is unclear if it is really due to COVID-19 restrictions or other reasons. It comes down to speculation.
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