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Palestinians ask ICC for Israel Probe 05/22 06:17
THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP) -- The Palestinian foreign minister asked the
International Criminal Court on Tuesday to open an "immediate investigation"
into alleged Israeli "crimes" committed against the Palestinian people.
The step was sure to worsen the already troubled relations between the
internationally backed Palestinian Authority and Israeli Prime Minister
Benjamin Netanyahu's government. Peace talks have been frozen for over four
years, and contacts between the two sides are minimal.
Speaking to reporters at the ICC in The Hague, Netherlands, Foreign Minister
Riad Malki said he submitted the "referral" to the court during a meeting with
the ICC's chief prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda.
The referral sought an investigation into Israeli policies in the West Bank,
east Jerusalem and Gaza Strip since the state of Palestine accepted the ICC's
jurisdiction in 2014, he said.
This includes Israeli settlement policies in the West Bank and east
Jerusalem, as well as the recent round of bloodshed in the Gaza Strip, where
Israeli fire killed over 100 Palestinians during mass protests along the Gaza
border, Malki added.
"There is a culture of impunity in Israel for crimes against Palestinians,"
Malki said. "This referral is Palestine's test to the international mechanism
of accountability and respect for international law."
The ICC has been conducting a preliminary probe since 2015 into alleged
crimes in the Palestinian territories, including Israel's settlement policy and
crimes allegedly committed by both sides in the 2014 Gaza conflict. Tuesday's
referral could speed up a decision on whether to open a full-blown
investigation that could ultimately lead to the indictment of high-ranking
The move comes with Israeli-Palestinian relations at their lowest point in
years in the aftermath of the U.S. Embassy move to Jerusalem and the recent
bloodshed on the Gaza border.
Israel has said it was defending its border and accused Gaza's ruling Hamas
militant group using the unrest to carry out attempted attacks and of using
civilians as human shields.
In response to Tuesday's move at the ICC, Israel said it took a "severe
view" of the Palestinian request, calling it a "cynical" and "absurd" step. It
accused the Palestinians of violent incitement against Israel and exploiting
women and children as human shields. It also said the ICC had no jurisdiction
in the case because Israel is not a member of the court.
"Israel expects the ICC and its prosecutor not to yield to Palestinian
pressure, and stand firm against continued Palestinian efforts to politicize
the court and to derail it from its mandate," the Israeli statement said.
Israel is not a member of the ICC, but its citizens can be charged by the
court if they are suspected of committing crimes on the territory or against a
national of a country that is a member. The ICC has recognized "Palestine" as a
While the ICC can indict suspects, it has no police force and has to rely on
cooperation from member states to enforce arrest warrants.
The Palestinians appear to have an especially strong case in the matter of
settlements. In 2004, the United Nations' highest judicial organ, the
International Court of Justice, ruled in an advisory opinion that the
settlements breached international law.
In late 2016, the U.N. Security Council also declared the settlements to be
Over 600,000 Israelis now live in the West Bank and east Jerusalem ---
territories sought by the Palestinians as parts of their future state. Israel
captured both territories from Jordan in the 1967 Mideast war.
Under international law it is illegal to transfer populations out of or into
Israel claims east Jerusalem as an inseparable part of its capital ---
though its annexation is not international recognized.
Israel claims the West Bank is not occupied because it was captured from
Jordan, not the Palestinians, and Jordan does not make a claim to the territory.
Since the Palestinians never ruled the West Bank, Israel says this territory
is disputed and its final status should be resolved in negotiations. It also
claims that settlements can be torn down and therefore do not prejudice the
final status of the territory. It notes that in the case of Gaza, for instance,
it uprooted all settlements there when it withdrew in 2005. Israel also
captured Gaza in the 1967 war.
While the Gaza withdrawal removed some 8,000 settlers, the much larger
population in the West Bank and east Jerusalem would be extremely difficult, if
not impossible, to move.