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Israel accused of waging 9-year ‘war’ against ICC, threatening chief prosecutors

Report accuses Netanyahu of being ‘obsessed’ with espionage effort against ICC investigation

The International Criminal Court in The Hague. (Photo: OSeveno/Wikimedia Commons)

United Kingdom-based news site, The Guardian, published two reports on Tuesday claiming that Israel ran an almost decade-long spy “war” against the International Criminal Court (ICC) as it attempted to investigate Israeli leaders over various alleged war crimes. 

The two investigations were conducted in conjunction with Israeli websites Local Call and joint Israeli-Palestinian +972 Magazine (whose name comes from the international calling code for Israel).

Both sites have a history of activism related to issues of social justice and receive support from the NGO Just Vision. 

The Guardian reported that “more than two dozen current and former Israeli intelligence officers and government officials, senior ICC figures, diplomats and lawyers” familiar with the matter spoke to the investigative team about the efforts by Israeli intelligence and security agencies to hinder ICC investigations. 

According to the sources, the Mossad, but also Israel's Security Agency (Shin Bet), the IDF Military Intelligence Directorate and its signal intelligence branch, Unit 8200, participated in the operations. 

The report alleged that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was “obsessed” with the espionage operation and demanded regular updates on its findings. 

One of Guardian’s reports focused exclusively on attempts by then-Mossad chief Yossi Cohen to persuade then-ICC chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda not to open a war crimes investigation into Israel. The report claimed that while Cohen initially played the role of the “good cop,” he quickly switched to “threats and intimidation” to pressure her into dropping the war crimes investigation. 

Following Bensouda’s opening of preliminary examination into what the court called "the situation in Palestine,” two men appeared at her home in The Hague and, while refusing to identify themselves, hand-delivered a letter which reportedly contained hundreds of dollars in cash and an Israeli phone number. 

One source told the investigative team that the "Mossad’s objective was to compromise the prosecutor or enlist her as someone who would cooperate with Israel’s demands.” 

The ICC reported the event to Dutch authorities and increased security at the ICC, as well as around Bensouda’s home. 

One former intelligence official who spoke to The Guardian said the “entire military and political establishment” viewed the effort against the ICC’s investigations “as a war that had to be waged, and one that Israel needed to be defended against. It was described in military terms.” 

The intelligence operation, with extensive monitoring of phone calls, emails, and other correspondence, is reportedly how Israel knew that current ICC chief prosecutor Karim Khan was planning to seek arrest warrants for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Yoav Gallant and requested help from the US. 

An ICC spokesperson confirmed that the court implemented extensive counter-intelligence measures due to the Israeli campaign. These measures reportedly included “regular sweeps of the prosecutor’s offices, security checks on devices, phone-free areas, weekly threat assessments and the introduction of specialist equipment.” 

The Israeli military denied any involvement in such operations, stating, “The IDF did not and does not conduct surveillance or other intelligence operations against the ICC.” 

The All Israel News Staff is a team of journalists in Israel.

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