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Netanyahu says ICC has ‘NO JURISDICTION’ to probe Israeli ‘war crimes’ in Palestine

Netanyahu says ICC has ‘NO JURISDICTION’ to probe Israeli ‘war crimes’ in Palestine
The International Criminal Court (ICC) has decided it will launch a full-fledged probe into alleged war crimes in the Palestinian lands by Israel. In response, Tel Aviv has declared the court’s jurisdiction there null and void.

The looming probe was announced by the ICC’s chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda on Friday. A preliminary investigation - opened back in 2015 - has concluded that there is enough data to open a full-scale one.

“I am satisfied that there is a reasonable basis to proceed with an investigation into the situation in Palestine,” Bensouda said in a statement. “I am satisfied that... war crimes have been, or are being, committed in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip.”

The announcement caused an explosive reaction in Tel Aviv, with the top politicians rushing to condemn it. Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu – himself entangled in several domestic probes into alleged corruption – called the ICC move “a dark day for truth and justice.”

“The ICC prosecutor has decided not to dismiss outright the Palestinian claim against the State of Israel. It is a baseless and outrageous decision,” Netanyahu said in a statement, arguing that the court cannot probe alleged war crimes in Palestine altogether.

The court has no jurisdiction in this case. The ICC only has jurisdiction over petitions submitted by sovereign states. But there has never been a Palestinian state.

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A similar opinion was expressed by Israel’s Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit, who also said the ICC was only for “sovereign states” and accused Palestinians of playing political games.

“By approaching the ICC, the Palestinians are seeking to breach the framework agreed to by the parties and to push the Court to determine political issues that should be resolved by negotiations, and not by criminal proceedings,” Mendelblit argued.

Israel has valid legal claims over the same territory in relation to which the Palestinians are seeking to submit to the Court's jurisdiction.

The fact that the Palestinian authority is a member of the ICC, while Israel is not, makes the jurisdiction issues very complicated. The ICC prosecutors appear to be well aware of that as Bensouda has explicitly stated that she will seek additional confirmation form the courts Pre-Trial Chamber to what territories exactly its jurisdiction extends to before launching the full-scale probe.

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Israel has been repeatedly accused of partaking in activities, amounting to war crimes, namely the demolition of Palestinians’ homes, forcible relocation of civilians, killing peaceful protesters and so on. The Palestinian Foreign Ministry formally reached the ICC early in 2018, asking it to investigate Israel’s alleged “crimes against humanity” and its active – and illegal – settlement policies in the West Bank.

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