Palestinian President Thanks ICC for Commitment to 'Pursuing Justice'

'Hysteria' after ICC prosecutor's announcement shows Israel fears a war crimes investigation, Palestinian foreign ministry says

Jack Khoury
Jack Khoury
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PA President Mahmoud Abbas in Paris in 2017.
PA President Mahmoud Abbas in Paris in 2017.Credit: Reuters / POOL
Jack Khoury
Jack Khoury

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has issued a statement in support of Wednesday's decision of the International Criminal Court to open an investigation into war crimes in the Palestinian Territories.

"The Palestinian Presidency appreciates the independence of the Prosecutor's decision and courage in defending human rights and pursuing justice," a statement from Abbas' office said.

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On Wednesday, Fatou Bensouda, the prosecutor of the Hague-based court, said her office will open a formal investigation, which will examine both sides in the conflict.

The decision, which was immediately welcome by both the Palestinian Authority and Hamas, came after the court ruled on February 5 that it has jurisdiction in the case, a move which prompted swift rejection from Washington and Jerusalem.

On Wednesday, the United States government and most Israeli politicians again overwhelmingly rejected Bensouda's announcement.

The U.S. State Department said they were both "firmly opposed" and "disappointed" with the ICC move, while the American Israel Public Affairs Committee called on the Biden administration to uphold sanctions on ICC officials instituted by his predecessor.

Fatou Bensouda speaking in the Hague in 2019.Credit: Abdullah Asiran / Anadolu Agency / AFP

Prime Minister Netanyahu called the decision "the essence of antisemitism," an interpretation that was adopted by several politicians on the right of Israel's political spectrum.

Other political figures, including Israel's president, also expressed outrage at the decision, insisting that Israel's army - "the most moral army in the world," many were keen to recall - was able to investigate itself, and that this move was politically motivated.

The Palestinian Authority on Thursday said the "hysteria behind Israel's public reactions" were a proof that Israel was afraid of the proceedings. "The attempt to define the decision as antisemitic is an example of Israeli defiance, also evident in its settlement enterprise," a statement by the Palestinian foreign ministry said.

Bensouda, who will be replaced by Britain's Karim Khan on June 16, said in December 2019 that "war crimes have been or are being committed in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip." She named both the Israeli Defense Forces and armed Palestinian groups such as Hamas as possible perpetrators.

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