Netanyahu Congratulates Trump on ICC Decision Not to Investigate U.S. Forces

The international court is 'picking on the United States and Israel, two democracies,' the prime minister said, thanking Trump for standing by Israeli soldiers

FILE PHOTO: U.S. President Donald Trump with Netanyahu at the White House in Washington, U.S., March 25, 2019
\ Leah Millis/ REUTERS

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu welcomed the International Criminal Court in The Hague's decision not to investigate alleged war crimes committed by the United States in Afghanistan during a government meeting on Sunday.

The prime minister said the court is "picking on" the United States and Israel. The ICC released a statement saying that the decision was made after the United States and others involved in the conflict refused to cooperate.

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"They're picking on the United States and to Israel, two democracies, which by the way are not members of the international court, but there's no doubt that we have the best judicial systems in the world," Netanyahu said. "To come and make the soldiers of America stand trial, or the soldiers of Israel, or the State of Israel or the United States is absurd. It's a reversal of the whole original point of the ICC," he added.

"Therefore, what we have here is a correction of injustice, and it is an act that has far-reaching influence with regard to the conduct of the international system in relation to the State of Israel," added the prime minister. "I congratulate the United States, President Trump, and the Trump administration for their steadfast position on the side of the citizens of Israel and the soldiers of the IDF. As in previous times, it is proven that Israel has no better friend than the United States, and we very much appreciate this support in other areas as well."

President Trump released a statement praising the ICC's decision not to investigate the United States, and said that it is "a major international victory, not only for these patriots, but for the rule of law." Trump also reiterated that the United States has consistently refused to join the ICC because its unaccountability and threat to American sovereignty render it illegitimate. He added, "Any attempt to target American, Israeli, or allied personnel for prosecution will be met with a swift and vigorous response."

Chief Prosecutor of the ICC Fatou Bensouda of Ghana has long requested from her colleagues permission to open an investigation to determine whether those who fought in the war in Afghanistan, among them the Taliban, government forces and the U.S. military, carried out war crimes. She wanted to examine claims that say American soldiers and CIA personnel took part in rape and torture, among others. The other ICC judges, though, decided that the difficulty of gathering witnesses and testimony lowers the chances of success for the prosecution and obtaining convictions.

The judges' decision, made after 18 months of deliberation, aroused anger amongst human rights lawyers and activists that claim that the ICC is submitting to threats and pressure from the Trump administration, which is weakening the institution's credibility. The decision "is a devastating blow for victims who have suffered grievous crimes without redress,” said Param-Preet Singh, associate international justice director at Human Rights Watch.  International Federation for Human Rights President Patrick Baudouin said the decision "is a dark day for justice" and "a shocking decision, which is based on a deeply flawed reasoning."  

In December, the International Criminal Court Prosecutor's Office said there was significant progress toward a decision on investigating Israeli actions in the West Bank and Gaza.

In 2015, Bensouda began investigating whether Israel committed war crimes in the Palestinian territories, including in Jewish settlements and in Gaza. In April, after the protests started on the Israel-Gaza border fence, the prosecutor said that violence against civilians could constitute an international crime, as could the use of civilians "to defend military activity.