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The New Arab Staff

Hungary, Germany voice opposition to ICC ruling amid major lobbying effort by Israel

Berlin's foreign minister Heiko Mass sharply rebuked of the ICC ruling [Getty]

Date of publication: 10 February, 2021

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The two European countries are the first to publicly oppose the ICC ruling, after Israeli Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi made frantic calls to allies.
Germany and Hungary have publicly opposed a ruling by the International Criminal Court (ICC) declaring the court's jurisdiction over the Palestinian territories to open a war crimes investigation against Israel, amid a major lobbying effort by Tel Aviv.

"The court has no jurisdiction because of the absence of the element of Palestinian statehood required by international law," tweeted Heiko Mass, Germany’s foreign minister.

While Mass affirmed Berlin's support for a Palestinian state, his sharp rebuke of the ICC ruling was echoed by Péter Szijjártó, Budapest's top diplomat.

"Similar to Israel, Hungary does not agree with this decision. During the legal procedure we already signalled that, according to our position, Palestine does not have criminal jurisdiction over Israeli citizens,” Hungary’s foreign minister wrote on Facebook.

"We have always supported Israel’s right to defend itself," he added.

The two European countries are the first to publicly state their opposition to the ruling which was passed on Friday, after Israeli Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi made frantic calls to allies. 

It came amid a major lobbying effort by the foreign ministry, as evidenced by classified cables sent to dozens of Israeli ambassadors around the world.

Israeli officials said the "urgent" cable demanded that ambassadors attend the office on Sunday, in order to read it and start reaching out to the ministers and heads of government of the countries they are posted in.

The goal was for foreign officials to issue statements of opposition to the ruling.

Israel is concerned any possible investigation could lead to international arrest warrants against Israeli officials and military officers, while boosting Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaigns against Israel.

BDS is a movement aiming to end international support for Israel and pressure it to comply with international law.

Israel also wanted to ask dozens of allies to "discreetly message" ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda on Monday, urging her not to proceed with the investigation, Axios reported.

While ICC Prosecutor Bensouda announced that she would study the ruling before beginning any investigation into Israel and Hamas over alleged war crimes during the 2014 war in Gaza, that did not stop panic spreading in Israel.

Read more: Panic in Israel after ICC move to investigate 'possible' war crimes in occupied Palestinian territories

The ICC ruling granted the court jurisdiction in the West Bank, east Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip.

Those three areas are claimed by Palestinians for a future state but have been occupied by Israel since 1967.

Bensouda first looked into the matter in December 2019, saying she believed there was a "reasonable basis" to open a war crimes probe into the actions of the Israeli military and settlement activity.

The court had to first determine whether it had territorial jurisdiction.

While the Palestinians do not have independence, the state of Palestine is a non-member observer state at the UN General Assembly.

That title, granted in 2012, allowed them to join the ICC and ask the court to investigate Israeli military practices in Gaza and settlement activities in the West Bank and east Jerusalem from 2014.

Palestinian factions have welcomed the ICC's decision, including Hamas, which said it would be willing to fully cooperate with the court.

US President Joe Biden's administration reacted negatively to the ruling, with State Department spokesman Ned Price saying: "We do not believe the Palestinians qualify as a sovereign state, and therefore are not qualified to obtain membership as a state or participate as a state in international organizations, entities, or conferences including the ICC".

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