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"A fierce Israeli campaign against the International Criminal Court, including a demand for punishment of the court’s officials, has left Canada caught in a dilemma on the issue.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, intensifying a campaign that has been under way for weeks, went on a Christian television network on Tuesday to urge its viewers to “rise up” against the ICC and demand sanctions against “everyone” at the court in The Hague.
The Israeli government, outraged at a possible ICC investigation of alleged war crimes against Palestinians, has been asking countries around the world to fight the proposal.
Mr. Netanyahu is also reported to be planning to lobby for support on the ICC issue from dozens of world leaders visiting Jerusalem this week for a Holocaust memorial to mark the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz.
The ICC’s chief prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, announced on Dec. 20 that there was a “reasonable basis” to conclude that Israeli authorities have committed war crimes in the Palestinian territories. She also cited evidence of war crimes by Palestinian armed groups. She asked the ICC to rule on whether the court has jurisdiction in the matter.
According to Israeli media, the Netanyahu government is listing Canada as one of Israel’s supporters on the issue.
The government of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, not wanting to appear either anti-Israel or anti-ICC, is trying to maintain a low profile on the proposed investigation. Canada played a key role in creating the ICC in the late 1990s, and still helps finance it with millions of dollars annually, including $10.6-million this year."
In response to questions from The Globe and Mail, the Global Affairs department declined to say whether Canada has responded to a letter from Mr. Netanyahu last month, in which he asked Mr. Trudeau to condemn the ICC prosecutor’s decision and to “acknowledge there is not a Palestinian state.”The Global Affairs Department has declined to say whether Canada has responded to a letter from Bibi. Why? Because the next question would be, well what was the response?
Despite the Trudeau government’s refusal to make any public criticism of the ICC over the proposed investigation, Israeli newspapers – citing sources in the Netanyahu government – have described Canada as an ally of the campaign. They have reported that Canada responded to the Netanyahu letter by indicating support for Israel’s opposition to an investigation.
ICC delays jurisdiction ruling on Israel war crimes case over document length
Judges at the International Criminal Court in the Hague rejected a request to rule on the possibility of opening an investigation against Israel and Hamas for possible war crimes, citing technical issues with the length of the document.
The ICC’s chief prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, said last month that there was a “reasonable basis” to open a war crimes probe into Israeli military actions in the Gaza Strip as well as Israeli settlement construction in the West Bank.
She also asked the court to determine whether she has territorial jurisdiction before proceeding with the case.
Her request to the court, which exceeded the 30-page limit, was accompanied by a request to extend the page limit to 110 pages, citing “the unique and complex factual and legal circumstances in this situation.”
In a ruling Tuesday, the judges approved the request for the page extension, but said it was “inappropriate” to ask for the extension at the same time as the 110-page document was submitted, sending Bensouda back to the drawing board to resubmit the request.
“A party or participant is formally authorized to file a document exceeding the specific page limit set out in the Regulations of the Court only once a chamber has granted a request to vary the page limit,” a statement from the ICC read.
The judges have 120 days to rule after they receive the new request.
According to Haaretz, the ruling means a decision on Bensouda pushing ahead with the case will be delayed by several months.
International law expert Nick Kaufman wrote on Twitter that the decision was a “slap in the face” of Bensouda.
The decision came as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu prepared to step up his campaign against the ICC and Bensouda, with plans to rally support from leaders gathering in Jerusalem for a major Holocaust commemoration event.
Israel, which is not a member of the ICC, has said the court has no jurisdiction and accused Bensouda of being driven by anti-Semitism.
“Following the outrageous decision by the ICC prosecutor, Israel has reached out to several countries,” a government source said. “Many of them have said that they do not agree to the ICC’s assault on the principle of national sovereignty, and the ICC has no jurisdiction in the case at hand.”
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo argued on twitter that “Israel is not a state party to the ICC.”
“We firmly oppose this unjustified inquiry that unfairly targets Israel,” Pompeo wrote. “The path to lasting peace is through direct negotiations.”Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade said it is “concerned” about Bensouda’s proposal, and said that it does not see the Palestinians as party to the Rome Statute because it does not recognize a Palestinian state.
"The decision has sent shockwaves across Israel’s political and military establishment. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu described it as “a dark day for truth and justice” and was quick to accuse the ICC of anti-Semitism. Israel’s Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit argued that the court had no jurisdiction in the West Bank or Gaza. The Foreign Ministry said the The Hague had no authority to deliberate over the Israeli-Palestinian issue, adding that Palestine was not a sovereign state and therefore could not join the statute or grant the ICC its criminal jurisdiction.
The scope of the proposed investigation, which includes East Jerusalem, will focus on the building of illegal settlements, the transfer of Israelis into occupied territories, allegations of torture, summary killings and demolition of Palestinian homes.
Israel’s claim that the ICC has no jurisdiction over the West Bank is contradictory. It indirectly acknowledges that the territory is occupied – an illegal act – while claiming that a Palestinian state does not exist. Even more ironic was the Foreign Ministry’s assertion that the proposed probe constituted “the criminalization of the conflict which could only lead to more polarization between the parties, instead of a diplomatic process which brings them together.” What diplomatic process is Israel referring to? The Palestinians have been calling on Israel to negotiate a political settlement for more than a decade now and it is the absence of such a process that has driven them to the ICC as a last resort.Oh, Canada?
Reams of UN resolutions that back Palestinian rights and condemn the occupation have been issued during the past 50 years and Israel has ignored all of them. The US has taken sides and violated international laws and codes by recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and more recently when US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo stated that “The establishment of Israeli civilian settlements in the West Bank is not per se inconsistent with international law.”
The US and Israel will attempt to discredit the ICC – and the accusation that the court is anti-Semitic is only the beginning. Israel will try to redirect the focus from the occupation, which is at the core of the conflict, to Israel’s claim to a Jewish homeland. A biased White House will not hesitate to punish ICC officials in order to impede the court’s work.
But, if the ICC endures and the probe does go on, Israel stands to face a major legal challenge that threatens present and former officials. It is vital that the ICC withstands pressure and follows through with its investigation. For the Palestinians the ICC is a last resort. The UN has been unable to implement its resolutions and penalize Israel for violating international laws and conventions. Israel has been acting with impunity — thanks to blind (not blind support, intentional, thoughtful support) support from the US. The credibility of the UN and its organizations has been shattered because of Israel which, ironically, was created by a UN resolution."