Israel has transferred information on its 2014 conflict with Hamas in the Gaza Strip to the International Criminal Court at The Hague, a prosecutor with the ICC said Friday, but Jerusalem issued a hasty clarification noting that it does not recognize the court’s authority.
According to the Walla news website, the handover of information marks Israel’s first cooperation with the ICC on its investigation of alleged war crimes by Israeli troops and settlers and Palestinian militants during what is known in Israel as Operation Protective Edge.
But The Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem later issued a statement responding to the comments by the prosecutor at the ICC, and insisted that Israel does not accept the authority of the court to discuss the matter of the IDF’s conduct during the 2014 war.
“There is no change in Israel’s position. As known, Israel does not recognize the court at The Hague as authorized to discuss the matter. As previously published, Israel is conducting a dialogue with the office of the prosecutor on the matter of the court’s lack of authority.”
The probe, which the ICC classified as a preliminary investigation, pertains to 66 reports of alleged crimes said to have occurred since June 13, 2014 in and around what the court defines as “Palestine” — a term it applies to the Hamas-run Gaza Strip and the Palestinian Authority’s West Bank, as well as East Jerusalem.
One of the Israeli objections to the ICC investigation is that its June 13 remit falls after the murder of three Israeli teenagers in the West Bank, considered by Israel to be a predicate for the hostilities.
Jerusalem decided last summer to respond to the ICC probe, a reversal that Haaretz called an about-face for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who initially refused to engage with the investigators.
Israeli officials maintained, however, that their communications with the ICC would only be to reaffirm the government’s stance that the Palestinian Authority, as a non-state actor, does not have the right to open a case against Israel, Haaretz reported.
“The Israeli position, like the position of other countries around the world, is that the International Criminal Court in The Hague has no authority to hear the Palestinian request since Palestine is not a country and because the Israeli judicial system is independent and can handle complaints on the matter of alleged war crimes,” an unnamed Israeli official told Haaretz in July 2015.
The ICC published an interim report on its investigation in November 2015, writing on the website of the UN tribunal on war crimes in The Hague that its prosecutor’s office was “in the process of conducting a thorough factual and legal assessment of the information available in order to establish whether there is a reasonable basis to believe that crimes within the jurisdiction of the Court have been or are being committed.”
Judah Ari Gross contributed to this report