Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu challenged on Thursday the authority of the International Criminal Court (ICC) to investigate possible war crimes in the Palestinian territories. The challenge resulted from the adoption of recommendations by the inter-ministerial team, led by the National Security Council, suggesting not to cooperate with the inquiry, but instead respond to the ICC notification letter by the Friday deadline.
On January 1, 2015, the Government of Palestine filed a declaration under article 12(3) of the Rome Statute accepting the jurisdiction of the ICC over alleged crimes committed in the territories of Gaza and the West Bank, including East Jerusalem. After the examination of the situation in Palestine, ICC Pre-Trial Chamber I found the Court to have territorial jurisdiction over the Situation in Palestine. Later, on March 3, 2021, ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda confirmed the initiation of an investigation by the ICC Office of the Prosecutor and held that the scope of the investigations extended to crimes alleged to have been committed in the Palestinian territories since June 13, 2014.
Letters were sent on March 9th to all parties concerned giving them one month to inform the court whether they would elect to defer the ICC inquiry in order to conduct their own investigations of the alleged crimes. According to the ICC prosecutors, the major concern is for the victims of crimes, both Palestinian and Israeli, arising from the long cycle of violence that led to casualties on both sides.
Omar Awadallah, a senior official in the Palestinian Foreign Ministry, said the Palestinians expressed in their response that they would cooperate with the ICC.
However, Netanyahu’s response “completely rejects” the assertion that Israel carried out any war crimes, saying “Israel is a country with rule of law that knows how to investigate itself,” and by definition it is not a party to the ICC as it is not a party to the Rome Statute.