Netanyahu: ICC war crimes probe based on anti-Semitism

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has accused the International Criminal Court (ICC) of anti-Semitism, over its chief prosecutor’s plan to pursue a war crimes probe in the Palestinian territories.

Netanyahu made his charge during a Sunday (December 22) candle lighting ceremony marking the start of the eight-day Hanukkah holiday at the holiest site in Judaism, the Western Wall in Jerusalem’s Old City. “New edicts are being cast against the Jewish people – anti-Semitic edicts by the International Criminal Court telling us that we, the Jews standing here next to this wall … in this city, in this country, have no right to live here and that by doing so, we are committing a war crime,” he said.

“Pure anti-Semitism,” Netanyahu repeated, while standing alongside U.S. Ambassador to Israel, David Friedman. He then stressed, “We will not bow our heads to this injustice, to this absurdity. We will fight it with all the tools. I say this here on Hanukkah holiday, we are picking up these candles that we light against all decrees, against the new anti-Semitism. As we won then – we will win today. ”

The Hanukkah holiday commemorates the rededication of the Second Temple in Jerusalem at the time of the Maccabean Revolt against the Seleucid Empire.

On Friday (December 20), ICC Chief Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda announced her intention to launch a full investigation into alleged war crimes in the Palestinian territories, as soon as the court’s jurisdiction had been established. The ICC’s chief prosecutor, said a 2015 preliminary examination into alleged war crimes had provided enough information to meet all criteria for opening an investigation, which could include charges against Israelis or Palestinians.

Bensouda said a preliminary examination into alleged war crimes opened in 2015 had rendered enough information to meet all criteria for opening an investigation. “In brief, I am satisfied (1) that war crimes have been or are being committed in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip ; (2) that potential cases arising from the situation would be admissible; and (3) there are no substantial reasons to believe that an investigation would not serve the interests of justice.”

Over concerns of bias, Israel has not joined the ICC – which has authority to hear cases of war crimes, genocide and crimes against humanity. Bensouda maintained that membership by the Palestinian Authority enabled her to waive the necessary step of seeking authorization from the Hague-based organization’s Pre-Trial Chamber to open an inquiry, saying, “As there has been a referral from the State of Palestine, there is no requirement ”

Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu condemned the decision, insisting the court has “no jurisdiction” to investigate alleged war crimes. At the weekly Sunday (December 22) cabinet meeting, he told his ministers that, “Although we are moving forward to new horizons of hope and peace with our Arab neighbors, the ICC in Hague goes backwards  – and on Friday it finally became a weapon in the political war against the state of Israel.”