Israel Moving to Protect Hundreds of Personnel Against ICC Probe

KEREM SHALOM (Reuters) -
Defense Minister Benny Gantz. (Alex Kolomoisky/Pool via AP, File)

Israel estimates that hundreds of its citizens might be subject to war crimes probes by the International Criminal Court, whose jurisdiction it rejects, and is working on how to protect them, the defense minister said on Tuesday.

Including himself among Israelis who could be threatened with arrest, Benny Gantz told Reuters: “I was never afraid to go across enemy lines, I will continue to stand wherever I have to.”

The Hague-based tribunal ruled last month that it has jurisdiction over Yehudah, Shomron, Gaza and East Jerusalem. The ruling could lead to criminal investigations of Israel and of Palestinian terror groups including Hamas.

Israel is not a member of the court and rejects its jurisdiction, a position backed by its close ally the United States. Palestinians have welcomed the ruling.

In an interview on Israel‘s fortified border with Gaza, Gantz, who also holds Israel‘s justice portfolio, called the ruling a “negative development” and added: “We have our own teams working in different [places] to try [and] influence [the ICC].”

Gantz was the IDF chief of staff during a 2014 war between Israel and militants in Hamas-controlled Gaza. The ICC has pointed to that conflict as a potential issue to be probed.

Asked by Reuters how many Israelis, including himself, might expect to be subject to arrest should the probe lead to criminal investigations, Gantz said: “I guess several hundred, but we will take care of everybody.”

Gantz called that “an estimate,” declining to say if Israel had drawn up a list of officials. Israel will provide legal assistance to any implicated Israelis and will give them legal warnings regarding travel if necessary, Gantz said.

Asked if he himself might change his travel plans in light of the ICC probe, Gantz said: “So far, no.”