Israeli leaders denounced the ICC decision to open an investigation into alleged war crimes against Palestinians on Wednesday, while the Palestinians and human rights groups welcomed it.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu called it “the epitome of anti-Semitism and hypocrisy. The State of Israel is under attack tonight,” he said.
“The court set up to prevent the recurrence of the atrocities perpetrated by the Nazis against the Jewish people is now turning against the state of the Jewish people,” Netanyahu charged. “Of course, it does not say a word against Iran, Syria and other dictatorships that are committing real war crimes.”
The prime minister promised to act “to reverse the scandalous decision.”
Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi described the ICC move as “an act of moral and legal bankruptcy,” and called on Israeli allies to reject it.
He explained it as a “political decision of a prosecutor at the end of her term, and an attempt to set priorities for her successor, to turn the tribunal into a tool in the hands of extremists and give backing to terrorist organizations and anti-Semitic bodies.”
Ashkenazi pointed out, “the fact that the murderous terrorist organization, Hamas, welcomes the decision, indicates more than anything that it has no moral validity.”
President Reuven Rivlin said it was “scandalous,” and that “we will not accept claims against the exercise of our right and our obligation to defend our citizens. The State of Israel is a strong, Jewish and democratic state that knows how to defend itself and to investigate itself when necessary,” he said in a statement.
Politicians on the right condemned the ICC, including Yamina, Yisrael Beytenu, National Zionism and New Hope.
However, Meretz chairman Nitzan Horowitz blamed the right, saying that “continued construction in the settlements and threats of annexation have turned Israel into a defendant for war crimes.”
“The settlements and the right are dragging Israel to The Hague,” he said in a statement.
Hamas welcomed the decision in a statement to Reuters.
The Palestinian Authority’s Foreign Ministry went a step further, offering the ICC “any assistance required… to realize justice for the Palestinian people.”
Human Rights Watch cheered the court on: “The court’s crowded docket shouldn’t deter the prosecutor’s office from doggedly pursuing cases against anyone credibly implicated in such crimes,” says Balkees Jarrah, associate international justice director at Human Rights Watch.
“All eyes will also be on the next prosecutor Karim Khan to pick up the baton and expeditiously move forward while demonstrating firm independence in seeking to hold even the most powerful to account,” Jarrah adds. “ICC member countries should stand ready to fiercely protect the court’s work from any political pressure.”