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April 14, 2019 5:03 pm

Israel’s Netanyahu Hails ICC Decision Not to Investigate Possible US War Crimes in Afghanistan

avatar by Benjamin Kerstein

The International Criminal Court at the Hague. Photo: Twitter screenshot.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday praised the International Criminal Court’s decision to forgo an investigation into possible US war crimes in Afghanistan.

“Over the weekend, there was a very important development for the State of Israel and the international community,” Netanyahu said at the opening of his government’s weekly cabinet meeting. “The court in The Hague rejected the petition by the prosecutor of the international court to investigate US soldiers.”

“This blocked a move that would have upended the original goal of establishing the international court,” he asserted. “It was mainly established after the outrages of the pogroms, genocide, and other problems that arose over the years in order to deal with countries and regions that have no true legal system.”

“They harass the US and Israel, democracies, which by the way are not members of the international court,” he added. “But without doubt, we have one of the best legal systems in the world, which is not a given because there are very few of these. To come and put on trial US or Israeli soldiers, or the State of Israel or the US, is absurd. It is the opposite of the original goal of the international court.”

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“Therefore, this corrects an injustice and will have far-reaching implications for the functioning of the international system regarding the State of Israel,” Netanyahu concluded. “I commend the US, President Trump, and the Trump administration for their strong stand alongside the citizens of Israel and the soldiers of the IDF. As on previous occasions, it has been proven that Israel has no better friend than the US and we very much appreciate the support in this field as well.”

The ICC at the Hague made its decision on Friday, after a panel of judges declared that convictions in such cases were unlikely due to the difficulty of obtaining the relevant evidence. The US had strongly opposed such an investigation, and went so far as to deny entry to the ICC’s Chief Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda in what was widely seen as a retaliatory move.

Neither the US nor Israel accept the jurisdiction of the ICC, with Israel believing it would be used as a political instrument against it, much like the current situation it faces in the United Nations.

Although Israel is not a member of the court, the ICC has a long history of attempts, mostly abandoned, to investigate or prosecute the Jewish state and its top military and political figures for alleged violations of international law.

Earlier this month, the Palestinian Authority called on the ICC to investigate settlement expansion in the West Bank, as well as IDF conduct during the ongoing riots on the Gaza border. The court has not yet done so.

Last year, however, Bensouda said an investigation into Israeli policies in the West Bank and Gaza was being considered. In August 2018, the court expressed that it was “of the view that preliminary first steps should be taken at this stage with a view to providing accurate information about the Court, including its mandate and activities, to victims of the situation” in the disputed territories.

The ICC officially investigated the 2010 Mavi Marmara incident, in which IDF troops were attacked while boarding a vessel attempting to run the blockade of Gaza and responded with deadly force. The case was dropped in 2014, but was later reopened and then closed again in 2017. No charges were ever filed.

In 2015, Bensouda began an investigation into alleged Israeli war crimes in the disputed territories, particularly regarding Jewish settlements in the area. In this case as well, no charges have been filed.

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