The International Criminal Court in The Hague will open an investigation into alleged war crimes committed by Israel and the Palestinians, the chief prosecutor announced on Wednesday, a ruling that could result in the arrest of Israelis and Palestinians traveling abroad if convictions are handed down.
The Palestinian Authority welcomed the ruling while Israeli leaders bristled. Israel is not a member of the ICC.
“The decision of the International Court to open an investigation against Israel today for war crimes is absurd. It's undiluted anti-Semitism and the height of hypocrisy,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said. “Without any jurisdiction, it decided that our brave soldiers, who take every precaution to avoid civilian casualties against the worst terrorists in the world who deliberately target civilians, it's our soldiers who are war criminals.”
“This court, that was established to prevent the repetition of the Nazi horrific crimes committed against the Jewish people, is now turning its guns against the one and only state of the Jewish people,” he continued. “It's targeting Israel, the only democracy in the Middle East. But of course it turns a blind eye to Iran, Syria and the other dictatorships that are committing real war crimes left and right.”
Foreign Minister Gaby Ashkenazi noted that “the fact that the murderous terror group Hamas is praising the decision indicates more than anything that it lacks any moral validity.”
Palestinians have called for such an investigation and reveled in the response.
“This long-awaited step serves Palestine’s tireless endeavor to achieve justice and accountability, which are indispensable foundations for the peace that the Palestinian people demand and deserve,” the Palestinian Foreign Ministry said in a statement. “The crimes committed by the leaders of the Israeli occupation against the Palestinian people are continuous, systematic and widespread.”
ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda said in a statement that the investigation will cover crimes "that are alleged to have been committed in the situation since 13 June 2014.”
On June 12, 2014, Palestinian terrorists kidnapped and murdered three Israeli teenagers in the West Bank. The three boys were eventually found dead after a nationwide manhunt, a tragedy that sparked the 2014 war between Israel and Hamas in Gaza.
According to the date Bensouda gave, the murders will not be included in the investigation.
Even though Israel doesn't recognize the court, a conviction can result in the arrests of Israeli soldiers - and Hamas militants - convicted of war crimes.
Defense Minister Benny Gantz said Israel will protect its soldiers “wherever necessary...and we will fully back IDF soldiers and commanders, all of whom will continue to scrupulously and faithfully fulfill their duty.”
“Hamas and Hezbollah hide missiles in people’s cellars and yards, using their citizens as human shields,” Gantz continued. “This rewards terrorism and terror organizations.”
The All Israel News Staff is a team of journalists in Israel.