President Reuven Rivlin on Thursday called on France to reject the International Criminal Court’s “legal and moral bankruptcy” decision to investigate Israel for war crimes in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem.
Rivlin pleaded in an editorial in the French daily Le Figaro, hours before his scheduled meeting with French President Emmanuel Macron in Paris.
“Friends may not always agree, but I believe we are determined to come to an understanding so that we can better understand each other’s views, motivations and decisions,” the president wrote, explaining why he would raise his objection to the ICC investigation with Macron. The ICC investigation will also examine alleged war crimes of Palestinian terrorist groups.
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“The decision of the chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court to investigate Israel for possible war crimes is a terrible misapplication of international law. A tribunal created to hear the most serious crimes of concern to the international community is being used as a political weapon. It’s a morally and legally bankrupt decision, ”Rivlin wrote.
President Reuven Rivlin (center) and Austrian President Alexander van der Bellen (center left), in Vienna, Austria, March 17, 2021 (Amos Ben Gershom / GPO)
France has not yet taken a position on the ICC decision, which has been condemned by the United States and certain European states.
The president insisted that Israel was “deeply committed to the theory and practice of ensuring that war crimes, genocide and crimes against humanity are never allowed to go unpunished because the systems national legal authorities do not want or cannot prosecute the individuals responsible for them ”.
He assured Le Figaro readers that Israel has “established beyond any doubt that we are both able and willing to investigate ourselves when allegations of this type are made”.
“The soldiers and civilians the ICC threatens to investigate are our children and grandchildren, our neighbors and friends. We will do everything we can to protect them, just as they protected us when asked to do so, ”Rivlin wrote.
Lamenting the “asymmetric armed conflict” in which Israel found itself engaged, Rivlin said international law enforcement officials should say “not only what is not allowed, but also what a state that is wants to protect the lives of its civilians is allowed to do. ”
Rivlin also argued that “one of the most egregious consequences of the ICC ruling is that it will make it even more difficult for Israelis and Palestinians to find common ground.”
“Until the Court concludes its investigation, which could take several years, it is difficult to see the two sides engage in serious negotiations,” he said. “At a time when recent agreements between Israel and Arab countries make the prospect of such progress better than ever in the recent past, this is an act of perverse logic.”
“I call on the friends of Israel and the Palestinians, in France and beyond, to clearly state, once and for all, that the road to peace runs directly between Jerusalem and Ramallah. The detours via the ICC in The Hague and the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva are counterproductive for the cause of peace and undermine the chances of an agreement between us, ”he said. concluded.
Channel 13 on Wednesday reported that Israel had received a letter from the ICC formally detailing the scope of its investigation into war crimes against Israel and Palestinian terrorist groups. According to the report, the letter arrived over the weekend and the National Security Council has already met to begin formulating Israel’s response.
The report says the one-and-a-half-page letter briefly describes the three main areas the investigation intends to cover: the 2014 war between Israel and Hamas; Israeli settlement policy; and the 2018 Great March of Return protests, a series of violent protests along Gaza’s border with Israel that left dozens of Palestinians dead.
Neither Israel nor the ICC published the letter or acknowledged that it was sent.
Israel has 30 days to respond, the report says, adding that Jerusalem tends to do so after largely refusing to cooperate with the Hague-based international tribunal so far. However, Israel should use its response as an opportunity to re-express the argument that the ICC lacks jurisdiction to hear the case.
Israeli officials hope the jurisdiction argument will succeed in delaying the case until outgoing ICC chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda is replaced in June by British lawmaker Karim Khan, whom Jerusalem hopes to be less hostile or even cancel the investigation.
Earlier this month, a number of officials told Channel 13 they feared the ICC will already start issuing arrest warrants against former IDF officers in the coming months.
Bensouda announced on March 3 that she was opening an investigation into actions committed by Israel and Palestinians in the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem since 2014. The announcement of the investigation came less than a month after the court ruled that she had jurisdiction to open a probe. A preliminary inquiry to settle the question of justiciability lasted more than five years.