The Biden administration opposes and is disappointed with the decision by the International Criminal Court to pursue an investigation into alleged Israeli war crimes in the Palestinian territories, State Department spokesperson Ned Price said on Wednesday.
Affirming U.S. support for Israel, Price said the ICC has “no jurisdiction over this matter,” which he said “unfairly” targets the Jewish State.
“Israel is not a party to the ICC, and it 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,” Price said, and echoed the U.S. view that the Palestinians do not meet the qualifications for a sovereign state required for the ICC’s involvement.
The position of the Biden administration puts it in line with the policy of the former Trump administration, which criticized the ICC as “unfairly” targeting Israel.
Price further said that the Biden administration is reviewing an executive order from former that imposed sanctions on the ICC’s chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda and her top deputies over efforts investigating alleged war crimes by the U.S. in Afghanistan.
The sanctions, where Bensouda was added to the Specially Designated Nationals And Blocked Persons List, are typically used for terrorists and drug traffickers.
“Much as we disagree with the ICC’s actions relating to the Palestinian situation, and of course to Afghanistan… we are thoroughly reviewing sanctions pursuant to Executive Order 13928, as we determine our next steps,” he said.
His remarks came in response to an announcement earlier Wednesday from Bensouda that the ICC will open an investigation into alleged war crimes by Israel in the Palestinian territories since June 2014 – in particular related to the summer war between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip and also including allegations of war crimes in the West Bank and east Jerusalem.
The decision to open an investigation was five years in the making as Palestinians pleaded for Israeli accountability on the international stage and Israel, along with the U.S., opposed the measures as biased and beyond the reach of the court.
Bensouda said in a statement the court was pursuing the investigation in accordance with an earlier ruling that was “unanimous in its view that Palestine is a State Party to the Rome Statute,” the agreement that governs the countries where the ICC has jurisdiction.
The Palestinian Foreign Ministry welcomed the decision by the ICC, saying in a statement that “this is 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.”
But it was rejected by Israeli Prime Minister , calling the announcement “absurd.”
“It’s undiluted antisemitism and the height of hypocrisy,” he tweeted.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu:
“The decision of the International Court to open an investigation against Israel today for war crimes is absurd. It’s undiluted antisemitism and the height of hypocrisy. pic.twitter.com/vGS7AX7SfN
— PM of Israel (@IsraeliPM) March 3, 2021
The Israeli ambassador to the United States and United Nations, Gilad Erdan, said that Israel would “continue working together with the American administration against this shameful decision.”
In May, Republican and Democratic lawmakers had urged the former Trump administration to defend Israel from the probe, saying the ICC has no jurisdiction in Israel or the Palestinian territories.
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