Israel rejects ICC prosecutors’ decision to open war crimes inquiry

Marcy Oster

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israel rejects the “absurd” decision by prosecutors at the International Criminal Court to open an inquiry into possible war crimes in Palestinian territories, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a statement.

“It’s absurd for the ICC to ignore international law and agreements, under which the Palestinians don’t have a state and can only get one through direct negotiations with Israel,” Netanyahu said Saturday night, a day after the  ICC’s announcement of the first formal step that could lead to charges against Palestinian or Israeli officials.

Prosecutors from the ICC, a United Nations tribunal which is based in The Hague, will determine whether the inquiry’s preliminary findings merit a full investigation into alleged atrocities which could result in charges against individuals on either the Israeli or Palestinian side.

Netanyahu said Sunday at the beginning of the regular Cabinet meeting that launching the inquiry “gives legitimacy to international terrorism. We will fight it every way possible and we will also recruit others to fight this absurdity, and they are already being recruited. We will not allow IDF soldiers to face international tribunals. I would also like to say that these steps will not deter us from doing what is necessary to defend the State of Israel and its citizens.”

The Unites States also condemned the announcement.

“It is a tragic irony that Israel, which has withstood thousands of terrorist rockets fired at its civilians and its neighborhoods, is now being scrutinized by the ICC,” State Department spokesman Jeff Rathke said in a statement issued Friday after the ICC announcement.

“As we have said repeatedly, we do not believe that Palestine is a state and therefore we do not believe that it is eligible to join the ICC,” said the statement, which called for direct negotiations between the two sides.

The move follows the signing last month by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas of the ICC treaty called The Rome Statute, as well as about 20 other international treaties and conventions.

The signings followed the rejection by the United Nations Security Council of a Palestinian state resolution.