Israeli officials on Sunday slammed the decision by the International Criminal Court to launch a probe into alleged Israeli war crimes against the Palestinians, calling it “diplomatic terrorism,” and a “weapon in the political war.”
The ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda on Friday signaled she is preparing to open a formal probe after asking judges exactly what territory a future investigation could cover. The announcement ended five years of preliminary investigations into alleged crimes by both Israeli forces and Palestinians.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu kicked-off the criticism of the ICC’s decision by going into a lengthy speech at the start of the weekly cabinet meeting.
“While we are moving forward in new areas of hope and peace with our Arab neighbors, the ICC in The Hague has taken a step backwards, it finally became a weapon in the political war against the State of Israel,” said the prime minister. “The prosecutor’s decision against Israel is absurd.”
“Who are they accusing here? Iran? Turkey? Syria? No - Israel, the only democracy in the Middle East. This is terrible hypocrisy.”
The baton of disapproval had then been picked up by Israel’s outgoing ambassador to the UN, Danny Danon, whose tenure is set to expire at the end of this year.
"This is diplomatic terror that’s being used instead of negotiations,” said Danon in an interview with Ynet. “The Palestinians use all the tools available to them to push Israel out and this time it is the criminal court,” he said.
“We will be active in the coming weeks in an effort to apply pressure to prevent this issue from developing into an indictment,” he said. "The prosecutor said she did hand it over to the court to decide whether to continue with this case or not. It left us an opening that we intend to try and exploit.”
Danon went on to say that the moves taken by the Palestinians on the international arena are meant to create headlines but serve little purpose. “The situation of the Palestinians has not improved in recent years as a result the steps they have taken,” he said. ”Will accusing Israeli soldiers of war crimes help the Palestinians? No.”
Likud MK and Minister of Science, Technology and Space Ofir Akunis also chimed in on the matter, calling the ICC prosecutor “anti-Semitic.”
“Israel should not cooperate with this anti-Israel thing,” he said.
Saeb Erekat, a senior PLO official, welcomed the decision to launch a probe, saying the Palestinians have the right to use all the legal means “to protect ourselves.”
“According to the UN laws, the actions the IDF has carried out in the past are considered war crimes.”