Netanyahu Rejects ICC's 'Preposterous' Inquiry Into Possible War Crimes

'To what depth of absurdity has the tribunal sunk?' PM asks, adding that decision to probe possible war crimes in Palestinian territories runs contrary to reasons for which the tribunal was created.

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Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at a Likud press conference, January 1, 2014.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at a Likud press conference, January 1, 2014.Credit: Tomer Appelbaum

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu sharply criticized on Saturday the decision by the International Criminal Court to launch an inquiry into possible war crimes in the Palestinian territories, saying Israel "fully rejects the preposterous decision."

"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?"

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.

Just days after extreme Islamic terror struck France, Netanyahu said, "the prosecutor of that tribunal decided to launch an inquiry into the state of Israel, of all countries." Israel, he said, "protects its citizens from Hamas, an extreme Islamic terror organization whose charter calls to slaughter Jews wherever they are. This is the same Hamas who's in an alliance with the Palestinian Authority, and whose war criminals have fired thousands of rockets at the citizens of Israel last summer."

Netanyahu added that the ICC's decision runs contrary to the core reasons for which the international tribunal was created. "The court was founded to prevent a repeat of history's worst crimes, foremost among them the genocide of six million Jews," he said. "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. Indeed, there is no greater absurdity."

Netanyahu spoke with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry on Friday, and asked him for the administration's assistance against the ICC's decision. Netanyahu also sent a letter on the matter earlier last week to several world leaders, including President Barack Obama, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott.

Israeli officials said Saturday that U.S. congressmen are already advancing an initiative that would target U.S. funds to the Palestinian Authority. A delegation headed by Senator John McCain will visit Israel this week to discuss the developments.

In the letter to world leaders, Netanyahu stressed that the ICC was established in the wake of World War II, in which six millions Jews were annihilated by the Nazis. 70 years later, he said, the Palestinians dare to point a finger at Israel – the most threatened democracy in the world. Netanyahu defended the Israeli legal system as one that meets "the highest standards in the international community." "If Israel falls victim to the cynical attempt to exploit the International Criminal Court," he concluded, "any democracy around the world may find itself in the same danger."

Ya'alon: ICC encouraging terror, not fighting it

Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon also blasted the ICC's decision, calling it "hypocritical and scandalous." In a statement Saturday, Ya'alon added that the move encourages terror instead of fighting it. "While terrorist organizations fire from population centers in the Gaza Strip and other areas at population centers in Israel, and while the Islamic terrorism is rearing its head in Europe and is threatening the countries of the free world – the tribunal at The Hague chooses to take a step that has nothing to do with reality," he said.

According to Ya'alon, "the State of Israel and the IDF are dealing with terror organizations that know no limits, and do so while adhering to moral values and attempting to minimize harm to civilians."

The defense minister also said that the ICC must investigate "the Palestinian terror and incitement, or the systematic murder of hundreds of thousands in Arab countries, not a democratic state that is defending itself and [has] an independent and objective legal system."

The leader of the Zionist Camp list, Labor's Isaac Herzog and Hatnuah's Tzipi Livni, said on Saturday that "a government headed by us will firmly stand against any unilateral step by the Palestinian Authority and will adamantly fight against the proceedings of the International Criminal Court at The Hague." In a statement, they added that they will "rally the support of the international community to provide military actions with a diplomatic umbrella, and the legal protective armor to all IDF soldiers and commanders."

Earlier on Saturday, Hamas welcomed the ICC's decision. "What is needed now is to quickly take practical steps in this direction and we are ready to provide (the court) with thousands of reports and documents that confirm the Zionist enemy has committed horrible crimes against Gaza and against our people," said Fawzi Barhoum, a spokesman for Hamas.

Israel rejected the court's Friday decision as hypocrisy and the U.S. State Department said it was "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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