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Netanyahu Accuses ICC of Anti-Semitism

Netanyahu Accuses ICC of Anti-Semitism

Sunday, 22 December, 2019 - 19:15
FILE PHOTO: The entrance of the International Criminal Court (ICC) is seen in The Hague March 3, 2011. REUTERS/Jerry Lampen/File Photo

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu accused the International Criminal Court of anti-Semitism on Sunday over its chief prosecutor's plan to pursue a war crimes probe in the Palestinian Territories.


Netanyahu made the allegation with Judaism's holy Western Wall as a backdrop during a candle-lighting ceremony marking the start of the eight-day Hanukkah holiday.


"New edicts are being cast against the Jewish people - anti-Semitic edicts by the International Criminal Court telling us that we, the Jews standing here next to this wall ... in this city, in this country, have no right to live here and that by doing so, we are committing a war crime," he said.


"Pure anti-Semitism," Netanyahu added.


The Hague-based International Criminal Court's chief prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, said on Friday she would launch a full investigation into alleged war crimes in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip as soon as the court's jurisdiction had been established.


Bensouda's announcement opens the possibility of charges being filed against Israelis or Palestinians. Israeli media, however, largely portrayed it as a bid to subject Israeli leaders and military officers to arrest and trial if they travel overseas.


Netanyahu's accusations appeared to be centered on a scenario in which Israeli settlement activities in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, where the Western Wall stands within the walled Old City, could be viewed by the court as war crimes.


According to Reuters, ICC prosecutors have said a preliminary investigation on the West Bank focused on "reported settlement-related activities engaged in by Israeli authorities".


The Palestinians and many countries consider the settlements to be illegal. Israel disputes this, citing security needs and biblical and historical connections to the land.


The Palestinians have welcomed Bensouda's decision. Netanyahu said on Friday the ICC had no jurisdiction to investigate events in the Palestinian Territories, arguing it could only examine petitions submitted by a sovereign state.


The ICC has the authority to hear cases of war crimes, genocide and crimes against humanity committed on the territory of the 123 countries that have signed up to it.


Israel has not joined the court but the Palestinian Authority, which exercises limited self-rule in the occupied West Bank, has done so.


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