Middle East

Jerusalem hopes to discredit court, calls war crimes probe 'absurd' and a 'perversion of justice'

Israel has decided on Sunday to launch an information campaign against the International Criminal Court in order to highlight the court's lack of jurisdiction and authority in investigation Israel.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu convened a meeting of legal advisers and other officials to hash out an Israeli response to the ICC move, a source in the Prime Minister’s Office said.

The Prime Minister's Office decried the court's investigation as "absurd" and slammed it as a "perversion of justice."

"At a time when terrorism is attacking the free world, this step will hurt international efforts to fight terrorism," the Jerusalem Post reported, citing sources.

Netanyahu met with security officials and legal experts in order to find discredit the legitimacy of the international tribunal, as the Palestinian Authority is not a state, and technically unable to file a case against the Jewish state in the ICC, said the PMO source, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Israeli and American officials have been harshly critical of the ICC move since the Friday decision.

“The decision by the prosecutor at the International Criminal Court to begin an inquiry against the State of Israel is the height of hypocrisy and the opposite of justice,” Netanyahu said at the start of the cabinet meeting Sunday morning. “I have already encountered such phenomena during my years of public service representing the State of Israel both as ambassador to the UN and as prime minister, but this decision by the prosecutor is in a category of its own. It gives legitimacy to international terrorism.

“We will fight it in every way possible and we will also recruit others to fight this absurdity, and they are already being recruited. We will not allow Israel Defense Forces soldiers to face international tribunals. I would also like to say that these steps will not deter us from doing what is necessary to defend the State of Israel and its citizens,” added Netanyahu.

“The court was founded to prevent a repeat of history’s worst crimes, foremost among them the genocide of 6 million Jews,” Netanyahu said in a statement. “Now the Palestinians are cynically manipulating the ICC to deny the Jewish state the right to defend itself against the very war crimes and the very terror that the court was established to prevent.”

Palestinians to complain to ICC of Israeli settlement construction

Meanwhile, the Palestinians will lodge a complaint with the ICC over any new Israeli construction in the West Bank settlements and East Jerusalem, Israel Radio reported Sunday.

The complaints will target any Israeli officials deemed responsible for the building – for example, Jerusalem mayor Nir Barkat in the case of new construction in the Jewish neighborhoods of the city's eastern parts.

According to the report, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke on Saturday with US Secretary of State John Kerry to seek his help in dissuading the ICC from launching the preliminary probe it announced into alleged Israeli war crimes in Palestinian territories.

"I won't be surprised if ISIS, al-Qaida and Hezbollah follow suit," said Netanyahu, who released statements in English and in Hebrew. "See, Hamas has already announced that they will join their Palestinian partner, President Abbas, in filing complaints against Israel as a result of this decision. To what depths of absurdity has the ICC sunk?"

Israel intends to mount a campaign aimed at convincing its allies to stop funding the international tribunal. "We will ask our friends in Canada, Australia and Germany to simply stop their payments," Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said Sunday. "This organization does not represent anyone, it is a political institution," he said, speaking on Israel Radio. He added that other countries, not just Israel, think there's no justification for the ICC's existence.

ICC prosecutors said on Friday the preliminary examination would scrutinize "in full independence and impartiality" crimes that may have occurred since June 13 last year, opening a path to possible charges against Israelis or Palestinians.

Hamas is preparing to submit "thousands of documents and reports" regarding alleged Israeli war crimes committed during last summer's war in Gaza to the International Criminal Court, following the latter's decision to open a preliminary probe into the Israeli forces' conduct.

"We cherish the opening of the probe and consider it a very important step, long-sought over years of struggle against the enemy," Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum said Saturday. "The step is a gleam of hope for the Palestinian people, a chance of seeing enemy leaders brought to justice and punished for their crimes."

Palestinian representative Hanan Ashrawi welcomed the ICC's decision, saying it would be the start of "Israeli accountability" for its "crimes" against Palestinians.

Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon on Saturday joined other Israeli leaders in blasting the ICC probe, calling it "hypocritical and outrageous. It gives a push to terror rather than fighting it."

Ya'alon called the ICC "disconnected from reality. It should be investigating Palestinian terror and incitement and not a democracy protecting itself."

The United States on Friday joined Israel in a condemnation of the ICC's decision, calling it a "tragic irony."

"We strongly disagree with the ICC prosecutor's action today," State Department spokesman Jeff Rathke said in a statement. "It is a tragic irony that Israel, which has withstood thousands of terrorist rockets fired at its civilians and its neighborhoods, is now being scrutinized by the ICC."

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