Middle East Monitor / February 15, 2020
On Friday Germany submitted a demand to the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague, that it be a “friend of the court” in the procedures relating to examining the jurisdiction of the International Court of Justice in the investigation of cases connected with the Gaza Strip. This follows the announcement by the prosecutor of the court, Fatou Bensouda, in December of last year, that she intends to investigate Israeli war crimes.
This is considered a step by Germany to support Israel, after the Czech Republic took a similar step on Saturday. Germany had announced, following the recommendation of Bensouda to open an investigation into Israeli war crimes, that: “We are confident that the court will resolve the raised issues, including the possibility of accepting the complaint (the authority to investigate crimes) that may be in doubt. Germany opposes the use of politicisation in files of any kind. We hope to deeply investigate all cases.”
Haaretz newspaper revealed on Friday that Israel views the opposition of “politicisation” as support for its position, and estimates that Germany’s joining of the investigation procedures in the ICC will help it to maintain this stance. Israel also maintains that Germany’s official non-recognition of the Palestinian state will help in these procedures.
Israel refrains from officially participating in the deliberations of the ICC, although it demanded the review of the court’s powers, because its participation will be considered as recognition of the court’s powers and procedures. Therefore, the Czech Republic submitted the request on Saturday to support Israel, according to the newspaper. The deadline for publishing all requests to join the procedures in the court is Sunday.
The newspaper quoted Israeli political officials welcoming the Czech Republic’s submission of the request, stating that: “Israel has made efforts in the matter.” The Czech Republic is a close ally of Israel in international institutions, and has helped several times in preventing decisions that were opposed by Benjamin Netanyahu’s government, in European Union institutions as well. The Czech Republic is also a member of the Visegrád Group alliance, along with Hungary, Poland and Slovakia, which are governed by right-wing nationalist parties and are European Union member states. Therefore, Netanyahu has sought in recent years to strengthen relations with it, in order to prevent the issuance of decisions by the European Union against the occupation practices, whose decisions should be issued unanimously by the member states.
On Saturday, the Israel Bar Association submitted a request similar to the one submitted by the Czech Republic, after the association members approved the request of the member, Avi Haimi, to head to the ICC. This was initiated in case Bensouda’s request to open an investigation into the occupation’s crimes is accepted, and join the court as friends, which are parties that help the court in cases even though they are not a party to the deliberations.
The newspaper reported that the Israel Bar Association formed a working group to write its views, headed by attorney Nick Kaufman, who held a senior position in the former Israeli Public Prosecution.
Haimi wrote to the association members that he wanted to represent the Israeli position: “So that the Palestinian Authority’s position does not remain unanswered.” Most of the association’s members approved his request, but he was opposed by Arab and Jewish members, who stressed that this is a controversial political and judicial issue in which the association should not interfere.