Israel will “engage” with the International Criminal Court probing alleged war crimes, but only in order to question the tribunal’s right to investigate Palestinian allegations, an official said Thursday.
“We’ve decided to engage with the ICC, the engagement will be limited solely to the question of authority” to deal with Palestine, the official told AFP on condition of anonymity.
The Palestinian Authority last month submitted a first dossier of evidence to the ICC, following a decision by the court’s chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda to launch a preliminary probe.
The probe, ordered in January, was set up to establish whether there was enough evidence for a full-blown war crimes investigation into last year’s conflict in the Gaza Strip between Israel and Palestinian militant groups, in which over 2,200 Palestinians were killed, mainly civilians.
On the Israeli side 73 people were killed, of them 67 soldiers.
On April 1 the Palestinians acceded to the ICC with the goal of trying Israeli leaders over alleged abuses in the Gaza war and alleged crimes relating to the occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem.
But the Israeli military has expressed confidence that its own internal probes will be sufficient to head off action by the Hague-based court, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reiterating Thursday that Israel’s actions were subject to the review of its own legal system.
Rights groups argue that Israel’s current investigative mechanisms are unable to effectively carry out investigations into suspected violations of humanitarian law, partially due to systematic impunity given to members of the Israeli military.
Israeli military probes into possible war crimes committed last summer by Israeli forces thus far have yielded criticism from the international community.
Israel, which has not signed up to the ICC, had rejected Bensouda’s “absurd decision” with Netanyhau saying the ICC was ignoring “international law and agreements, under which the Palestinians don’t have a state.”
To Israel’s mind, Hamas — the movement which de facto rules Gaza — is guilty of war crimes for launching rockets at Israeli civilians and using Palestinians as human shields.
The Palestinian appeal to the ICC is part of an increased focus on diplomatic maneuvering following mounting frustration with the lack of progress in creating their own independent state and failure to seek justice through Israeli legal systems.
The Palestinian Minister of Foreign Affairs welcomed “strong” international support last week for a resolution passed by the United Nations Human Rights Council to hold accountable those who violated international law during last summer’s war.
“There is no path to justice and peace without accountability,” Foreign Minister Riad Malki said following the UNHRC vote to adopt an extensive UN report on the conflict.
A June UN report said both Israel and Palestinian fighters may have committed war crimes during the 2014 Gaza conflict, and Bensouda has reported that both sides in the Gaza war could face war crimes charges.
(Agencies and Ma’an – www.maannews.net)