Israel responds to the ICC: You have no jurisdiction over us

The International Criminal Court has no jurisdiction to investigate Israel for alleged war crimes. That is what the government plans to answer in a letter to The Hague, the main ministers decided on Thursday.

The answer is consistent with Israel’s long standing position on the matter.

Israel is not a member of the ICC and has a policy of not cooperating with it, so it was unclear whether the government would respond to the letter that prosecutor Fatou Bensouda sent to the Jewish state last month.

The Israeli argument is based on the court’s own rules, which state that its cases would involve member states, and that it does not intervene in countries with judiciary able to fairly judge cases of crimes against humanity. Israel appointed its own independent judiciary, capable of prosecuting soldiers who commit war crimes.

Furthermore, although the Palestinian Authority is part of the Rome Statute establishing the ICC, Israel has argued that it is not a state and therefore cannot legally be a member of the court. The AP filed the complaint against Israel that led to the investigation.

These arguments were echoed by eight member states of the ICC: Germany, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Brazil, Uganda, Austria, Australia and Canada.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi and Defense Minister Benny Gantz met for the second time on the subject on Thursday, the day before Israel’s deadline to respond to Bensouda’s letter. Also present at the meeting were Education Minister Yoav Gallant, Minister for Water and Energy Yuval Steinitz, Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit, Head of the National Security Council Meir Ben-Shabbat, Chief IDF military lawyer Sharon Afek, others.

Last month, Bensouda announced that he is opening an investigation into war crimes against Israel. The investigation is expected to include Operation Edge Protection 2014, the riots on the Gaza border in 2018 and the settlement venture, including East Jerusalem. High officials who may be vulnerable to war crimes prosecutions include Netanyahu and Gantz, who was the IDF’s chief of staff in 2014, as well as hundreds of IDF officers.

Labor leader Merav Michaeli said that “the government should have worked day and night to ensure that such a decision had never been made by The Hague, but is abandoning its duty.

“Netanyahu’s behavior could incur a high price for IDF officers and soldiers,” she warned. “Netanyahu is putting Israel in danger; Netanyahu must go.”