Editorial |

The ICC's Decision Is a Red Flag for Israel

International Criminal Court's (ICC) chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda (C) holds a press conference during her visit to look into allegations of extreme violence in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of the Congo
International Criminal Court's chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda holds a press conference during her visit to look into allegations of extreme violence in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of the CongoCredit: John Wessels/AFP

The International Criminal Court’s ruling that it has jurisdiction over the occupied territories and East Jerusalem has predictably sparked angry reactions in Israel. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu based his criticism of the decision on two familiar foundations. First, “The court ignores the real war crimes and instead pursues Israel, a country with a strong democracy that sanctifies the rule of law.” Second, “In this decision, the court undermined the right of democratic countries to defend themselves against terror.”

Facebook silenced Trump. Will it tackle Netanyahu’s lies? Listen to Guy Rolnik

But Netanyahu’s arguments are ludicrous. The court didn’t rule that Israel was guilty of war crimes; it merely responded to a request from prosecutor Fatou Bensouda, who asked the pretrial chamber of judges to rule on the fundamental question of the court’s territorial jurisdiction. Nor is there any connection between the fact that Israel is a democracy and the commission of prima facie war crimes. Democracies have committed and still commit war crimes, and the fact that they are democracies doesn’t grant them immunity from investigation or prosecution.

Israel’s complaint that the ICC ignores real war crimes and is “persecuting” it for political reasons tells us more about Israel than it does about the court. Israel has failed to understand that its very status as a democratic, law-abiding country obligates it to uphold higher standards than those demanded of countries like Iran, Syria or Sudan. Nor has the court denied Israel’s right, or that of any other country, to fight terrorism to protect itself. But it insists that the war on terror is conditional on compliance with international law and the laws of war, and that an international body has the power to determine what constitutes legitimate action and what constitutes a war crime.

The most important part of the decision is its recognition of Palestine as a state with the right to seek redress from the court. The judges didn’t rule on its borders or seek to solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but they considered Palestine’s recognition by the UN General Assembly and the fact that the Palestinian Authority joined the ICC in 2015 and deemed these sufficient under the Rome Statute, which determines who is authorized to seek redress from the court. They thereby showed that Israel’s battle against recognition of the State of Palestine is pointless.

Israel should view the judges’ decision, which paves the way for an investigation into its conduct in the territories, as a red flag. Israel now has the status of a suspect state, and it must present its arguments and its interpretation of the incidents the court will investigate. Throwing mud at the ICC and refusing to cooperate with the investigation won’t acquit it if its guilt is in fact ultimately proved.

Click the alert icon to follow topics:

Comments

SUBSCRIBERS JOIN THE CONVERSATION FASTER

Automatic approval of subscriber comments.

Subscribe today and save 40%

Already signed up? LOG IN

ICYMI

United Arab List chairman Mansour Abbas in the Knesset on Monday.

Arab Voters Will Decide if Israel's Far-right Wins Power

נתניהו עם כיפה שחורה על הראש נשען בשתי ידיו על הכותל

Israel Is Heading for Its Most 'Jewish' Election Ever

An El Al jet sits on the tarmac at John C. Munro International Airport in Hamilton, Thursday, in 2003.

El Al to Stop Flying to Toronto, Warsaw and Brussels

FILE PHOTO: A Star of David hangs from a fence outside the dormant landmark Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh's Squirrel Hill neighborhood in 2021.

American Judaism Is in Decline. That's Great News for American Jews

Crowds at Israel's Ben-Gurion International Airport, in April.

U.S. Official: West Bank Entry for Palestinian Americans Unrelated to Israeli Visa Waivers

Haaretz spoke with several people who said they had fled Ukraine, arrived in Israel,  and were asked to undergo DNA tests in order to establish paternity.

'My Jewish Grandmother Has a Number on Her Arm, Why Does Israel Greet Me This Way?'