December 23, 2019

In-Depth Issues:

Video: Hanukkah at the Western Wall in Jerusalem (U.S. Embassy Jerusalem)
    Watch U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu light the first candle of Hanukkah at the Western Wall in Jerusalem.
    See also Netanyahu: We Will Overcome the ICC, Just as We Overcame Other Anti-Semites in History (Prime Minister's Office)
    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Sunday at the Hanukkah candle-lighting ceremony:
    "2,200 years ago, the Maccabees fought the war of liberation for the Jewish people and the Jewish faith against the anti-Semitic Greeks. They wanted to extinguish our faith, to stamp on our freedom, to drive us out of this land, to say that we have no right to exist."
    "In the year 2019...the International Criminal Court, that should know otherwise, has set forth decrees that are just as anti-Semitic as the decrees of the Greeks."
    "They say the Jews do not have a right to settle in the Jewish homeland. They say the Jews do not have a right to live in the land of the Jews, in the Land of Israel."
    "Well, we say, shame on you. The light of truth lights here and we will overcome you, just as we overcame other anti-Semites in history."

1,500 Killed in Iran Protests (Reuters)
    After days of protests across Iran last month, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei issued an order to his top security and government officials: Do whatever it takes to stop them.
    1,500 people were killed in less than two weeks starting on Nov. 15, three Iranian Interior Ministry officials said. The toll included 400 women.

Israeli Airstrikes Target Iran-Linked Military Base in Syria - Frank Miles (Fox News)
    Israel conducted an airstrike into Syria on Sunday night, state media reported.
    The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the missile attack targeted Iranian and Syrian military positions near Damascus.
    Israel has repeatedly struck Iran-linked targets in Syria in recent years and has warned against any permanent Iranian presence on its frontier.

UAE Foreign Minister Tweets Article Supporting Israel-Arab Alliance - Seth J. Frantzman (Jerusalem Post)
    Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation for the United Arab Emirates, tweeted an article supporting an emerging alliance of Arab states with Israel to his 4.6 million followers.
    The tweet repeated the headline of the article: "Islam's reformation: an Arab-Israeli alliance is taking shape in the Middle East."

Dozens of UN Envoys Tour Samaria for First Time - Efrat Forsher (Israel Hayom)
    23 UN ambassadors toured Samaria in the West Bank last week on an official visit hosted by Israeli UN Ambassador Danny Danon.
    They included ambassadors from Poland, Romania, the Czech Republic, Ukraine, Guatemala, and Haiti.
    At the Barkan Industrial Park, home to businesses that employ 4,200 Palestinians and 3,000 Israelis, Bosnia and Herzegovina UN Ambassador Sven Alkalaj said:
    "We have seen Arab and Israeli coexistence in factories and we think this is a very important project. By buying these products, we can give peace a real chance."

News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • International Criminal Court to Probe Alleged War Crimes in Palestinian Areas - Stephanie van den Berg
    The International Criminal Court's chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda said on Friday she would launch a full investigation into alleged war crimes in the Palestinian territories as soon as the court's jurisdiction had been established. Bensouda said a preliminary examination into alleged war crimes, opened in 2015, had provided enough information to meet all criteria for opening an investigation.
        "I am satisfied that...war crimes have been or are being committed in the West Bank, including east Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip," she said. She added that she had filed a request with judges for a jurisdictional ruling because of the contested legal status of the Palestinian territories. (Reuters)
        See also Statement of ICC Prosecutor on the "Situation in Palestine" (International Criminal Court)
        See also Israel Responds to ICC Probe: "This Is a Dark Day for Truth and Justice"
    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Friday: "This is a dark day for truth and justice. The ICC prosecutor has decided not to dismiss outright the Palestinian claim against the State of Israel. It is a baseless and outrageous decision. The court has no jurisdiction in this case. The ICC only has jurisdiction over petitions submitted by sovereign states. But there has never been a Palestinian state."
        "The ICC prosecutor's decision has turned the International Criminal Court into a political tool to delegitimize the State of Israel. The prosecutor has completely ignored the legal arguments we presented to her. She has also completely ignored history and the truth when she says that the very act of Jews living in their ancestral homeland, the land of the Bible, that this a war crime. We will not be silent. We will not bow our heads before this outrage. We will continue to speak out against this travesty of justice."  (Prime Minister's Office)
  • The International Criminal Court Unfairly Targets Israel - Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo
    U.S. Secretary of State Pompeo said Friday: "Today, the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC), Fatou Bensouda...asked the ICC judges to confirm that the Court may exercise jurisdiction over the West Bank, east Jerusalem, and Gaza. By taking this action, the Prosecutor expressly recognized that there are serious legal questions about the Court's authority to proceed with an investigation."
        "We firmly oppose this and any other action that seeks to target Israel unfairly....We do not believe the Palestinians qualify as a sovereign state....The United States also reiterates its longstanding objection to any assertion of ICC jurisdiction over nationals of states that are not parties to the Rome Statute, including the United States and Israel....The United States respects the decision of those nations that have chosen to join the ICC, and in turn, we expect that the decision on the part of the United States and Israel not to join and not to place our personnel under the court's jurisdiction will also be respected."  (U.S. State Department)
        See also Bolton: ICC Decision on Israel Is "Lawless"
    Former U.S. National Security Adviser John Bolton tweeted Saturday: "The decision of the International Criminal Court's Prosecutor to investigate Israeli actions in Gaza and the West Bank proves yet again that the ICC is lawless and unaccountable. U.S. sovereignty is at stake here as well as Israel's. We must reject any ICC effort to assert jurisdiction over states like Israel and the United States or their citizens. There can be no compromise and no surrender on this point."  (Twitter)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Israeli Mayors near Gaza: "We Are Victims of War Crimes" - Matan Tzuri
    The Forum of Israeli Mayors of Gaza border communities condemned the ICC announcement regarding an investigation into Israeli war crimes. "The prosecutor should come out here and see what 19 years of war crimes look like with civilians subjected to shelling day and night," they said. (Ynet News)
  • Video: America and the International Criminal Court - Dore Gold
    In April, the State Department revoked the U.S. visa of International Criminal Court (ICC) chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda after she declared her intention to conduct an investigation of U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan. Israel's concerns have been similar to those of the U.S., due to its bad experience with multilateral institutions in the past that have made baseless allegations against IDF soldiers, accusing them of war crimes.
        At the ICC, any political issue might be converted into a legal weapon. The U.S. has long been aware of this problem, which explains why, like Israel, it could not join what started as a noble cause but later became a seriously flawed idea. Amb. Dore Gold is president of the Jerusalem Center. (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis:
  • Israel Does Not Commit War Crimes - Editorial
    Israel does not intentionally harm civilians in Gaza or anywhere else. Yes, civilians are harmed in Gaza by IDF actions, but they are not the target. In 2015, a panel of former top military leaders and generals from eight democratic countries investigated the 2014 Gaza War. Their conclusion: Israel's conduct in the conflict "met and in some respects exceeded the highest standards we set for our own nations' militaries....The IDF not only met its obligations under the Law of Armed Conflict, but often exceeded these on the battlefield at significant tactical cost."
        Furthermore, Jews living at the site of the biblical Shiloh, or in the shadow of the Western Wall and the Temple Mount, are not committing war crimes. To say that a Jew living in Judea - the cradle of Jewish civilization - is a war criminal is ridiculous. As Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told the Cabinet on Sunday: "To turn the fact that Jews are living in their land into a war crime is an absurdity of unimaginable proportions."
        What starts with Israel will not end with Israel. If today Israeli politicians and soldiers will be charged with war crimes for the unintentional death of innocents during a military campaign, then tomorrow the politicians and soldiers of other countries will also find themselves so accused.
        Syria intentionally commits war crimes. Iran intentionally commits war crimes. Turkey intentionally commits war crimes. Israel does not. (Jerusalem Post)
        See also The Failure of the International Criminal Court - Amb. Alan Baker (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
  • How Israeli Cooperation Delayed the ICC Move - Yonah Jeremy Bob
    While Israel rejected the International Criminal Court's jurisdiction, it cooperated with the ICC on a limited basis by providing counter-information to the charges being investigated by ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda, who had threatened in mid-2015 to open a full war crimes trial if Israel did not provide her with information. Thus, Israel's decision to cooperate pushed off a full war crimes investigation from 2015 until late 2019.
        The ICC Prosecution is much weaker now than in 2015, both because it is already in fights with the U.S., Russia and England, and because some of its major cases, like the Kenya case, have fallen apart. Many states have also withdrawn from the ICC's Rome Statute in recent years.
        Moreover, Bensouda acknowledged that Israel had made a case that there were jurisdictional issues regarding "Palestine." And if a full criminal investigation starts before Bensouda leaves office, it will likely drag on for years. She is only in office until mid-2021.
        In addition, Bensouda's legal brief does not make a determination about the compliance of Israel's legal system with international law. Under the Rome Statute, no full ICC investigation can be initiated until the ICC Prosecutor makes a finding that Israel itself has failed to probe the alleged war crimes. However, Israel initiated over 500 probes and more than 30 full criminal investigations of its own soldiers during the 2014 Gaza War. It has also published several extensive public reports about mistakes made by IDF forces during the 2014 War. This is important since mistakes cannot be war crimes because they lack intent. (Jerusalem Post)

ICC Has No Jurisdiction in Proposed Investigation of Israel (Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Ministry of Justice)
  • The decision of the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court not to dismiss the Palestinian case that calls for a criminal investigation of Israelis is unfounded and outrageous. It has turned the ICC into a political weapon waging political war against the Jewish state.
  • The Court has jurisdiction only in cases brought before it by sovereign states. The simple truth is that there is no Palestinian state and there never has been such a state. Accordingly, the Court has no jurisdiction in this case and claiming otherwise is a distorted act of legal acrobatics.
  • It is indisputable that Israel, the state of the Jewish people, has indelible historical and legal rights in our homeland. The parties agreed that the end of the conflict between them would be reached through direct negotiations. The Palestinians keep avoiding negotiations and consistently and systematically violate their commitments, including by this appeal to the Court.
  • The Prosecutor has been influenced by Palestinian manipulation, which aims to weaponize the Court. The attempt to turn a political issue into a legal one places a serious obstacle in the way of resolving the conflict.
  • Jurisdiction is not a mere formal or procedural matter; it is what distinguishes a legal body from a political one. When the Office of the Prosecutor ignores the rules of jurisdiction of the Court, this encourages political exploitation of the Court and undermines the juridical integrity of this institution.
  • Israel, a state founded after the horrors of the Holocaust, was among the first states to support the idea of establishing an international criminal court. Nevertheless, Israel, like other states, did not join the Rome Statute due to concerns that the court would be exploited as a political tool rather than fulfilling its original purpose. Today, the Office of the Prosecutor has proven that these concerns were justified.