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Israel responds to 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 respond to in a letter to The Hague, top ministers decided on Thursday.

The answer is in line with Israel’s long-standing position on the issue.

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 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 will involve Member States and that it does not intervene in countries where the judiciary is able to justly prosecute cases of crimes against humanity. Israel has pointed to its own independent judiciary, which is capable of trying soldiers who commit war crimes.

In addition, Israel claimed that although the Palestinian Authority is a party to the Rome Statute establishing the ICC, it is not a state and therefore cannot legally be a member of the court. The PA filed the complaint against Israel, which led to the investigation.

These arguments were reiterated by eight ICC member states: 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 matter on Thursday, a day before the deadline for Israel to respond to Bensouda̵

7;s letter. Also present at the meeting were Education Minister Yoav Gallant, Energy and Water Minister Yuval Steinitz, Advocate General Avichai Mandelblit, Head of the National Security Council Meir Ben-Shabbat, IDF Military Advocate Sharon Afek among others.

Last month, Bensouda announced that she was opening a war crimes investigation against Israel. The probe is expected to cover the 2014 Operation Protective Edge, the riots at the Gaza border in 2018 and the settlement business, including East Jerusalem. Among the senior officials who may be vulnerable to war crime moves are Netanyahu and Gantz, who were IDF chiefs 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 would never have been taken by The Hague, but it is a failure of its duty.

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

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