Netanyahu says “IDF soldiers will continue to defend Israel with determination & strength, and as they defend us, we will defend them, with the same determination & the same strength.”
The first case the Palestinians will refer to the International Criminal Court will be Israel’s actions during this summer’s Gaza war, a legal expert said Sunday.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas opted to turn to the ICC after losing a motion last week in the UN Security Council to set a 2017 deadline for a Palestinian state to be established in land occupied by Israel in 1967.
The Palestinians delivered to UN headquarters in New York on Friday documents on joining the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court and other global treaties, saying they hoped to achieve “justice for all the victims that have been killed by Israel, the occupying power.”
Membership of the Rome Statute would open the way for Palestinians to pursue criminal complaints in The Hague.
Israel will not permit its soldiers to be hauled in front of the International Criminal Court on potential war crimes charges, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Sunday. “We will not let Israel Defense Forces (IDF) soldiers and officers be dragged to the International Criminal Court in The Hague,” Netanyahu said at the start of the weekly cabinet meeting, two days after the Palestinians filed a controversial application to become a party to the court.
“The Palestinian Authority has chosen to take a path of confrontation with Israel, and we will not sit idly by,” Netanyahu warned, vowing to defend Israeli military personnel from possible prosecution by the court.
“IDF soldiers will continue to defend Israel with determination and strength — and as they defend us, we will defend them, with the same determination and the same strength,” Netanyahu said.
He said the Palestinian leadership should be put on trial before the ICC for signing a 2014 reconciliation agreement with the Islamist Hamas movement which led to the establishment of a national consensus government.
“Those who should face justice are the heads of the Palestinian Authority who signed a covenant with the war criminals of Hamas,” he said.
Israel’s Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman lashed out Sunday against the European parliaments that have recognized Palestine as a state.
Lieberman said those parliaments have added a new chapter in the anti-Semitic work “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion.”
The minister added that dignified delegates in the European Parliament and in Sweden and Ireland’s House of Representatives intentionally lied when debating whether to vote in favor of the Palestinians.
This behavior, said Lieberman, is reminiscent of the way Czechoslovakia was sacrificed by Europe on the eve of signing the Munich Agreement in September 30, 1938.
“They are abandoning Israel, despite the fact that it is the only country that represents Western values in the entire Middle East,” he said.
The Protocols are one of the most infamous and notorious works of modern anti-Semitism. They are based on popular anti-Semitic notions rooted in medieval Europe, which claimed the Jews used blood of Christian children for the Feast of Passover, poisoned the wells and spread the plague. The Protocols relied on the myth of an international Jewish conspiracy and claimed the blood libel tales were circulated among the masses of secret rabbinical conferences whose aim was to subjugate and exterminate the Christians.
The Protocols were extensively used to incite widespread slaughters of Jews during the twentieth century and formed an important part of the Nazis’ justification of genocide of the Jews in the Holocaust even after they were exposed as forgery in 1921.
Speaking Sunday at the opening of the conference of Israeli envoys in Europe Lieberman also said that the Palestinians’ attempt to join the International Criminal Court “demonstrates that the Oslo Accords have failed.”
Lieberman added that the Israeli approach of “sitting idly by” and maintaining the status quo at any price has also been unsuccessful.
“The greatest challenge is [promoting] an Israeli initiative that safeguards our interests,” Lieberman said, adding that the challenge lies in Israel’s diplomacy not with Arab counties, but with Western states and the European Union.
Israel freezing transfer of tax money to the PA
Israel froze the transfer of half a billion shekels in tax revenues to Ramallah in response to the Palestinian Authority’s bid to join the International Criminal Court.
The decision was made following a discussion held by Netanyahu regarding retaliation steps against the ICC bid.
The funds in question are tax money collected by Israel for the Palestinian Authority in December 2014. Under interim peace deals from the 1990s, Israel collects at least $100 million a month in duties on behalf of the Palestinian Authority.
Chief Palestinian Negotiator Saeb Erekat branded the move a “war crime.”
“This is money that is Palestinian money and therefore the decision of the Israeli government and Netanyahu to freeze it is against international law and it proves the justice of our request to the International Criminal Court,” Erekat was quoted by Haaretz as saying. “What Israel did is a war crime that joins the crimes it has committed against the Palestinian people.”
In addition to the revenue freeze, Israel was also “weighing the possibilities for large-scale prosecution in the United States and elsewhere” of Abbas and other senior Palestinian officials, Reuters reported.
Israeli official said Palestinian leaders “ought to fear legal steps” after their decision to sign onto the Rome Statute.
“Israel is weighing the possibilities for large-scale prosecution in the United States and elsewhere” of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and other senior Palestinians, the official said.
But ICC chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda has already said that Palestine qualifies to join the Rome Statute. Israel is not a party to the Rome Statute however and does not recognize the court’s jurisdiction.
US warns Palestinians of ‘implications’ over ICC membership
Meanwhile, the US State Department on Friday warned that the Palestinians’ move to join the ICC will affect US aid directed towards the PA, Reuters reported.
“It should come as no surprise that there will be implications for this step, but we continue to review,” an official said. “US assistance to the Palestinian Authority has played a valuable role in promoting stability and prosperity not just for the Palestinians, but also for Israel as well.”
Washington has repeatedly said that unilateral moves likes joining the ICC would undermine the peace process.
“We are deeply troubled by Palestinian action regarding the ICC,” a State Department official told Reuters.
The United States has branded the move to seek ICC membership as “counterproductive” and warned it would only push the sides further apart.
The Palestinians were upgraded from observer entity to a UN “observer state” in 2012, opening the possibility for them to join the ICC and a host of other international organizations.
Palestinians mull resubmitting UN statehood bid
The Palestinian Authority is meanwhile considering resubmitting its failed statehood bid to the Security Council, PA spokesman Nabil Abu Rudeineh said Saturday.
China, France and Russia were among eight countries that backed last Monday the resolution on ending the Israeli military presence by the end of 2017, but the result fell short of the nine votes required for adoption.
The US and Australia voted against and five other countries abstained, among them Nigeria, which had been expected to vote in favor but changed its stance at the last minute.
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