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Israel's Netanyahu to call meeting on ICC investigation

Netanyahu will meet with senior Israeli officials to discuss Israel's response to the ICC [Getty]

Date of publication: 5 April, 2021

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Netanyahu is expected to convene a meeting with Defence Minister Benny Gantz, Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi and other senior officials, according to Israeli media reports.
Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is set to meet on Tuesday with senior officials to discuss his country's response to the International Criminal Court [ICC] decision to investigated alleged war crimes against Palestinians.

Netanyahu is expected to convene a meeting with Defence Minister Benny Gantz, Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi and other senior officials, according to Israeli media reports.

The Hague-based ICC tribunal last month opened a formal investigation into alleged Israeli war crimes in the Palestinian territories. Tel Aviv has until 9 April to respond to the ICC letter informing it of the investigation.

While Netanyahu had not yet discussed the issue with the relevant cabinet members, Israel's foreign and justice ministry professionals had been working on their recommendations, according to reports.

Read also: Is the ICC the new frontier of Israeli exceptionalism?

The ICC notice, sent under Article 18 of the court's founding document, the Rome Statute, gives Israel a month to tell judges it is investigating crimes similar to those being probed by the ICC.

Israel may then reply to the ICC detailing whether it will carry out its own probe into alleged perpetrators and ask the chief prosecutor for a deferral.

The Palestinians, who have been a state party to the ICC since 2015, have welcomed the investigation and said they will not seek any deferral.

The world's only permanent war crimes tribunal, the ICC was set up in 2002 to try the worst crimes against humanity where local courts are unwilling or unable to step in.

ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda has said her investigation will cover the situation in the blockaded Gaza Strip along with the Israeli-occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem since 2014. 

It will mainly focus on the 2014 Gaza War but also look at the deaths of Palestinian demonstrators from 2018 onwards.

There is "reasonable basis" to believe crimes were committed by both sides - by the Israeli military and authorities, and by Hamas and Palestinian armed groups, Bensouda said after concluding a five-year preliminary probe in 2019.

Israel has rejected the investigation, saying the court has no jurisdiction over its citizens.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, a vocal critic of the ICC, has said the decision to open the probe was the "essence of anti-Semitism" and declared Israel was "under attack". 

However, Netanyahu has not made clear whether Israel would fight back through diplomacy and public opinion - or by engaging directly with the ICC.

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