Israel’s Secret Campaign Against ICC Revealed – Surveillance, Hacking, Intimidation

The Guardian revealed that Israel conducted a nearly decade-long secret campaign against the ICC. (Design: Palestine Chronicle)

By Palestine Chronicle Staff  

Israel’s campaign reportedly involved using intelligence agencies to “surveil, hack, pressure, smear and allegedly threaten senior ICC staff in an effort to derail the court’s inquiries.”

The British newspaper The Guardian revealed, citing informed sources, that Israel conducted a nearly decade-long secret campaign against the International Criminal Court (ICC). 

Details of Israel’s campaign to thwart the ICC’s inquiry were reportedly uncovered through interviews with more than two dozen current and former Israeli intelligence officers, government officials, senior ICC figures, diplomats, and lawyers familiar with the case and Israel’s efforts to undermine it.

‘Surveil, Hack, Pressure, Smear’

Israel’s campaign reportedly involved using intelligence agencies to “surveil, hack, pressure, smear and allegedly threaten senior ICC staff in an effort to derail the court’s inquiries.”

According to the investigation, which was conducted by The Guardian, the Israeli-based magazines +972 and Local Call, Israeli intelligence intercepted communications of numerous ICC officials, including Karim Khan and his predecessor Fatou Bensouda, capturing phone calls, messages, emails, and documents. 

“The surveillance was ongoing in recent months, providing Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, with advance knowledge of the prosecutor’s intentions,” the report stated.

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One intercepted communication reportedly suggested Khan wanted to issue arrest warrants against Israeli officials but faced “tremendous pressure from the United States,” according to an informed source.

“Bensouda, who as chief prosecutor opened the ICC’s investigation in 2021, paving the way for last week’s announcement, was also spied on and allegedly threatened,” the British paper wrote.

Netanyahu’s Obsession

According to the report, Netanyahu closely followed these intelligence operations against the ICC, described by one intelligence source as “being ‘obsessed’ with intercepts about the case.” 

The Guardian revealed on a separate investigation on Tuesday that a covert operation against Bensouda was personally managed by Netanyahu’s close ally Yossi Cohen, who was the Mossad director at the time. 

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Cohen even enlisted the help of Joseph Kabila, the then-president of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, according to the report.

An ICC spokesperson confirmed awareness of “proactive intelligence-gathering activities being undertaken by a number of national agencies hostile towards the court”. 

According to The Guardian, a spokesperson for Israel’s prime minister’s office dismissed the allegations, stating: “The questions forwarded to us are replete with many false and unfounded allegations meant to hurt the state of Israel.”

Fatou Bensouda

The ICC case has been developing for over a decade. In January 2015, when it was confirmed that Palestine would join the court after being recognized as a state by the UN General Assembly, Israeli officials condemned its accession as a form of “diplomatic terrorism.”

In January 2015, Bensouda opened a preliminary examination into “the situation in Palestine.” 

“The following month, two men who had managed to obtain the prosecutor’s private address turned up at her home in The Hague,” The Guardian reported.

According to five sources, Israeli intelligence “routinely spied on the phone calls made by Bensouda and her staff with Palestinians.”

This surveillance provided Israel with an advantage in secret meetings with the ICC, which were highly sensitive and authorized by Netanyahu, according to the investigation.

However, in December 2019, Bensouda concluded her preliminary examination, finding “reasonable basis” to believe both Israel and Palestinian armed groups had committed war crimes. She sought the ICC judges’ ruling on the court’s jurisdiction over the Palestinian territories, preparing to launch a full investigation.

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“Between late 2019 and early 2021, as the pre-trial chamber considered the jurisdictional questions, the director of the Mossad, Yossi Cohen, intensified his efforts to persuade Bensouda not to proceed with the investigation,” the report said.

Simultaneously, a “smear campaign” emerged involving Bensouda’s family. Material obtained by Mossad was circulated among diplomats to discredit her, but this effort gained little traction, according to The Guardian.

In March 2020, an Israeli delegation met with US officials about a “joint Israeli-American struggle” against the ICC. Around the same time, the Trump administration imposed sanctions on Bensouda and a top official, believed to be linked to both the Afghanistan and Palestine investigations.

Despite the pressure, Bensouda announced a full investigation into the Palestine case in March 2021, shortly before her term ended.

Karim Khan

Karim Khan, who succeeded Bensouda in June 2021, inherited the Palestine inquiry. 

“As he took office, other investigations (…) competed for his attention,” The Guardian reported. October 7 however, changed the situation. Khan visited Gaza, the occupied West Bank, and southern Israel, issuing statements warning Israel against military actions.

In February 2024, Khan announced he was seeking arrest warrants for Netanyahu and Gallant alongside three Hamas leaders for war crimes and crimes against humanity. 

“Concerns in Israel over Khan’s intentions escalated last month when the government briefed the media that it believed the prosecutor was contemplating arrest warrants against Netanyahu and other senior officials such as Yoav Gallant,” the investigation revealed.

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“The subject of the ICC climbed the ladder of priorities for Israeli intelligence,” one intelligence source was reported as saying.

According to a source, “it was via intercepted communications that Israel established that Khan was at one stage considering entering Gaza through Egypt and wanted urgent assistance doing so without Israel’s permission’.”

Khan was reportedly “under tremendous pressure from the United States”. 

The ICC, according to the report, “has strengthened its security with regular sweeps of the prosecutor’s offices, security checks on devices, phone-free areas, weekly threat assessments and the introduction of specialist equipment.”

“An ICC spokesperson said Khan’s office had been subjected to ‘several forms of threats and communications that could be viewed as attempts to unduly influence its activities’,” the report concluded.

Arrest Warrants

Karim Khan announced on Monday that his office had filed applications for arrest against Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Yoav Gallant for “war crimes and crimes against humanity”.

Khan also applied for arrest warrants for three Palestinian leaders, including Yahya Sinwar, the leader of Hamas in Gaza; Mohammed Deif, the leader of Al-Qassam Brigades; and the head of Hamas’ political bureau, Ismail Haniyeh.

In a video message on Monday, Netanyahu called the decision “outrageous,” “a disgrace” and “a moral outrage of historic proportions.”

ICC Arrest Warrants for Israeli, Hamas Leaders- Global Reaction

“It will cast an everlasting mark of shame on the international court,” he said, accusing Khan of “callously pouring gasoline on the fires of antisemitism that are raging across the world”.

He reiterated that “no amount of pressure and no decision in any international forum will prevent Israel from defending itself against those who seek our destruction.”

Israeli President Isaac Herzog slammed “any attempt to draw parallels between these atrocious terrorists and a democratically elected government of Israel.”

He said Israel was “working to fulfill its duty to defend and protect its citizens entirely in adherence to the principles of international law,” and such an attempt was “outrageous and cannot be accepted by anyone”.

(The Palestine Chronicle)

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  1. Am i the only one who is not at all surprised? Israel has free rein. why?
    the Nazi party didn’t end in 1945, they emigrated and took over Palestine.

  2. So Israel and the United States have effectively confessed to what is called in the UK “Perverting the Course of Justice” and what in the US is called “Obstruction of Justice”, with side-dishes of “Contempt of Court” thrown in. The whole thing about the independence of the judiciary in democracies is to preserve justice, no matter who the plaintiff or defendant is. And it is an essential part of democracy, vital in constraining the state – so Israeli President Isaac Herzog can quit whining about “a democratically elected government of Israel”, because a society without respect for independence of the judiciary, is no democracy.

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