The US adminstration, in brazen contempt for the international law, has reaffirmed its opposition to the International Criminal Court (ICC) probe into the Israeli regime’s war crimes in the occupied territories.
In a phone call with Israeli premier Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday, US Vice President Kamala Harris underscored Washington’s support for the Tel Aviv regime, opposing the ICC’s “attempts to exercise its jurisdiction over Israeli personnel”, the White House said in a statement.
Harris, the statement noted, “emphasized the United States’ unwavering commitment to Israel’s security”, while resisting any move to expose the regime’s genocidal project in the occupied territories.
The first call between the two officials came a day after the ICC prosecutor said her office will formally launch a probe into Israeli war crimes in the occupied Palestinian territories.
The annoucement follows a February 5 ruling by the international court claiming jurisdiction in the case.
“Today, I confirm the initiation by the office of the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court of an investigation respecting the situation in Palestine,” Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda said in a statement, adding it will specifically look at allegations since June 13, 2014.
She said the decision followed a “painstaking preliminary examination” by her office that took around five years, while promising a “principled, non-partisan, approach”.
“In the end, our central concern must be for the victims of crimes, both Palestinian and Israeli, arising from the long cycle of violence and insecurity that has caused deep suffering and despair on all sides,” she added.
The move, while welcomed by the Palestinian resistance groups, prompted strong reactions from Washington and Tel Aviv.
In a first reaction on Wednesday, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said that Washington “firmly opposes and is deeply disappointed” by the ICC decision.
“Israel is not a party to the ICC and has not consented to the Court’s jurisdiction, and we have serious concerns about the ICC’s attempts to exercise its jurisdiction over Israeli personnel,” he said in a statement.
On the other hand, the Palestinian resistance groups welcomed the prosecutor’s investigation.
The Palestinian Authority termed the annoucement “a long-awaited step that serves Palestine’s tireless pursuit of justice and accountability, which are indispensable pillars of the peace the Palestinian people seek and deserve”.
The Palestinian resistance movement Hamas also commended the ICC’s move, while defending its own actions in response to the regime’s unwarranted aggression.
“We welcome the ICC decision to investigate Israeli occupation war crimes against our people. It is a step forward on the path of achieving justice for the victims of our people,” Hazem Qassem, a Hamas spokesman in Gaza, was quoted saying by Reuters.
“Our resistance is legitimate and it comes to defend our people. All international laws approve legitimate resistance,” he noted.
Responding to the news, Matthew Cannock, head of Amnesty International’s Centre for International Justice, termed it a “momentous breakthrough for justice after decades of non-accountability for war crimes and crimes against humanity”.
“The ICC investigation provides the first genuine prospect for thousands of victims of crimes under international law to gain long overdue access to justice, truth and reparations. It also offers a historic opportunity to finally put an end to the pervasive im impunity that has driven serious violations in the Occupied Palestinian Territories for more than half a century,” he noted in a statement.
Bensouda, who is set to be replaced by British prosecutor Karim Khan in June, said in December 2019 that war crimes had been or were being committed in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
She named the Israeli military, which has for years unleashed a reign of terror on Palestinians, as perpetrators of war crimes.
The ICC prosecutor further noted that there was a “reasonable basis” to launch a probe into Israeli military actions in the besieged Gaza Strip, as well as illegal settlements in the occupied West Bank.
Bensouda then asked judges to rule on the extent of the court’s jurisdiction in the case, and the court last month established that it had jurisdiction.
Judges at ICC said the decision was based on jurisdictional rules in court’s founding documents, and it does not imply any attempt to determine statehood or legal borders.
The international court, which has often sought to expose war crimes committed by the Israeli regime and the US around the world, has faced bullying and intimidation from both Tel Aviv and Washington.
The ICC prosecutor’s office was during the previous US adminstration targeted with draconian sanctions after Washington opposed its investigation into US war crimes in war-ravaged Afghanistan.
Israeli regime occupied East Jerusalem al-Quds, the West Bank, and the Gaza Strip during the Six-Day War in 1967. It later had to withdraw from Gaza.
About 700,000 Israelis currently live in over 230 illegal settlements built in the West Bank and East Jerusalem al-Quds, which have been deemed illegal under international law.
Palestine is a party to the ICC’s founding Rome Statute and has long carried out diplomatic efforts for the investigation of the war crimes by Israel in the occupied territories.
Both Israel and the United States have refused to be a party to the ICC, which was set up in 2002 to be the only international tribunal to investigate war crimes.