Analysis: With the lengthy process yet to get underway and chief prosecutor Bensouda leaving in June, Jerusalem believes that her British successor could reverse course; meanwhile, it has the support of its strongest ally, the U.S.
https://www.ynetnews.com-Itamar Eichner, Tova Zimuky
Israel had been bracing for Wednesday’s International Criminal Court announcement that it was launching an investigation into alleged war crimes in the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem, and believes it will be able to provide legal protection to its citizens.
This is indeed a grave step but there is no imminent danger. Such processes can take years, and it will be months at the very least before any potential warrant against Israelis is issued.
Nevertheless, Jerusalem is taking considerable measures to prepare for legal defenses and is diverting efforts and resources to the protection of Israelis from any action by the court.
According to ICC protocols, Chief Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda must issue an official letter to the Israeli government formally informing of it the court’s intention to launch an investigation and to enquire whether Israel would carry out the investigation into the alleged crimes itself.
Israel will have 30 days to respond to the letter and it has not even been received in Jerusalem yet.
It is unclear at this point whether Bensouda’s replacement, British barrister Karim Khan, was informed of Wednesday’s announcement in advance or even if he intends to continue down his predecessor’s path. Israeli officials believe that Khan will have the authority to reverse course should he so decide.
Bensouda herself has admitted that the ICC’s resources are limited and that the coronavirus pandemic stands to delay the process further.
Officials in Jerusalem are adamant that Israel has not perpetrated any war crimes or illegal acts and that such accusations are better applied to Nazi horrors or to the atrocities committed during the conflicts in the former Yugoslavia, Rwanda or Syria.
Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit has recently devoted long hours to meetings with the political leadership to mitigate the danger posed by the ICC decision.
In Mandelblit’s view, the court lacks the authority to judge the allegations as the Palestinians who leveled the charges against Israel do not have an independent state or territory and therefore no jurisdiction over any Israeli actions.
He also believes that the ICC rule that a country that investigates itself would not have to answer to The Hague applies to Israel in this case.
“Israel is committed to the fundamental principles of international law and is able to independently examine allegations of violations of the law. Therefore, there is no cause for the ICC’s involvement in matters subject to the authority of the State of Israel,” Mandelblit said.
According to the attorney general, his position has won support from internationally acclaimed legal experts.
Meanwhile, Israel turned to its long-standing ally the U.S. for assistance, hoping that it would adhere to its previous position of opposing an ICC probe.
That hope was realized on Wednesday night, with the State Department making it very clear that while many things had changed when U.S. President Joe Biden replaced Donald Trump, some things are constant.