U.S. and European Government Leaders Slam ICC Investigation into Israel

People enter the International Criminal
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February 19, 2021

The International Criminal Court's decision to initiate an investigation into alleged Israeli war crimes threatens to undermine the body's judicial integrity and is driven by groups that seek to delegitimize the world's only Jewish state, according to a group of former senior government and military officials from the United States and Europe.

The ICC's recent decision to pursue charges against Israel represents an "unprecedented campaign of delegitimization against Israel waged by the enemies of the Jewish State and supported by numerous international institutions," according to a letter sent by these government officials on Friday to newly installed ICC chief prosecutor Karim Khan. The Friends of Israel Initiative, an international coalition of former military and government officials that advocates on Israel's behalf, organized the letter, a copy of which was obtained by the Washington Free Beacon.

The Biden administration and Israel have already condemned the investigation, claiming the court has no jurisdiction to investigate the alleged crimes. Friday's letter by the Friends of Israel Initiative is the most coordinated public rejection of the investigation to date and is signed by several of the most prominent global leaders, including former U.S.-Iran envoy Elliott Abrams, former British Army commander Col. Richard Kemp, former Canadian prime minister Stephen Harper, former Spanish prime minister José Maria Aznar, former Australian prime minister John Howard, and former president of Uruguay Luis Alberto Lacalle, as well as former foreign ministers of Canada, Italy, and the Netherlands, among others.

The former officials call on Khan to abandon the investigation, which was launched by ex-ICC chief Fatou Bensouda at the urging of many well-known anti-Israel groups, including some that are tied to terrorism. The former officials maintain that the court has no jurisdiction to prosecute Israel's alleged crimes and that Israel is under no obligation to comply with the investigation since it is not party to the Rome Statute, the treaty that established the ICC.

"The request for an investigation was made by an entity [the Palestinian Authority] which is not a sovereign state within the terms of the Rome Statute, under which only sovereign states may delegate jurisdiction to the Court over their territory," the letter states. "In assigning itself jurisdiction, the ICC disregards and undermines the Oslo Accords, an internationally binding set of agreements that remain in force and continue to be recognized by both Israel and the Palestinian Authority."

The ICC, the letter writers maintain, is damaging its reputation and undermining its mandate to pursue the world's gravest crimes, such as genocide. By singling out Israel, the region's only democracy, the ICC is sending a message that it cares more about partisan political causes than it does about justice.

The probe is also likely to undermine the Abraham Accords—Israel's recent peace agreements with Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, and other Arab nations that have warred with the country for years—as well as similar efforts to bring the Israelis and Palestinians back to the negotiating table.

"For an international body with the prestige of the ICC to support the abrogation of the Oslo Accords and unilaterally endorse one side's claims in a bilateral dispute would cripple the likelihood of future negotiations," the former officials write.

Kemp, a combat veteran who was present during Israel's multiple skirmishes with Hamas terrorists in the Gaza Strip, told the Free Beacon that "the ICC has contorted itself into a political court."

"The allegations of war crimes against Israel are false, drummed up by the Palestinian leadership, anti-Israel NGOs and the UN Human Rights Council," Kemp said. "The true war crimes in those conflicts were committed by Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad, who illegally use their own civilians as human shields, fire indiscriminately into Israeli civilian communities and make extensive use of child soldiers."