Middle East Monitor / February 18, 2020
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is confident he can block the International Criminal Court (ICC) from launching an investigation into alleged war crimes committed by his country against the Palestinians in the occupied territories.
While Israel is not a signatory to the ICC, it has sought to undermine the efforts of the international body by lobbying governments friendly to the Zionist state to support its campaign to disrupt the court’s investigation.
Following its December announcement to launch a full investigation into alleged war crimes in the Palestinian Territories, the ICC has faced a number of attacks. Israel not only threatened to prevent ICC officials from entering the occupied territories, a move that would mirror its treatment of United Nations investigators who are also prevented from entering the region, but the court was denounced as “pure anti-Semitism.”
ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda dismissed the allegation saying it had no merit and that she expected to face attempts to undermine her credibility through “character assassination” in the same way that witnesses are discredited and undermined during a legal case.
Israel has been lobbying frantically to have the case dismissed on the spurious ground that the court has no jurisdiction over the occupied territory.
In the UK, the Conservative Friends of Israel (CFI), an anti-Palestinian group that lobby’s on Israel’s behalf, has urged the UK government to directly oppose the ICC’s investigation.
Writing to Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab, senior CFI officials MP Stephen Crabb, Lord Pickles and Lord Polak, argue that “as a non-state actor the Palestinians do not meet the legal requirements of the Rome Statute,” according to a CFI press release.
A month prior to the CFI letter, Polak, a veteran pro-Israel lobbyist in Westminster, revelled over the recently-elected Conservative government, saying that it presented an important opportunity to advance Israel’s interests amongst British decision-makers.
Netanyahu seems to think all his efforts to block the case is paying off. The Likud leader is reportedly telling his cabinet that countries had responded to Israeli lobbying over the launching of the investigation.
“We are struggling against this [proceeding] and, at our side I must say, are many friends around the world [which] joined the US in a steadfast stand alongside Israel,” said Netanyahu.
Along with the US, Brazil, Hungary, Austria, Germany, the Czech Republic, and Australia – all of which are Israeli allies – have applied to file legal opinions to the court over the case, according to Reuters.
Fifty-seven Muslim states represented by the Organisation for Islamic Cooperation (OIC) are said to have asked to file a legal brief, arguing that the Palestinians have sovereignty over the Palestinian territories.
The Palestinian Bar Association, the International Commission of Jurists and other legal and human rights organisations have also asked to file briefs with the court to say it does have jurisdiction in this case.
The Palestinians were accepted as an ICC member in 2015 after they signed the court’s founding Rome Statute, based on their UN “observer state” status.