Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday threatened a strong response to the Palestinian application to join the International Criminal Court, saying the move represented the opening salvo of a further confrontation with Israel.
Speaking to his cabinet hours after Jerusalem announced financial sanctions in response to the Palestinian move, Netanyahu vowed Israel would take action and that the country would not sit back and allow IDF soldiers to be prosecuted abroad.
“The Palestinian Authority has chosen confrontation with Israel and we will not sit idly by,” Netanyahu said at his office in Jerusalem. “We will not allow IDF soldiers and commanders to be hauled before the International Criminal Court in the Hague.”
Last week, the Palestinians filed an application to join the ICC after a failed bid to pass a UN Security Council resolution on Palestinian statehood demanding an Israeli withdrawal to the pre-1967 lines by the end of 2017. The resolution did not gain the necessary nine council member votes it needed for approval, though it would have likely been vetoed by the United States in any case.
Netanyahu said Palestinians leaders were the ones who should be prosecuted in the ICC over their unification with rival faction Hamas.
“It is the Palestinian Authority leaders – who have allied with the war criminals of Hamas – who must be called to account,” he said. “IDF soldiers will continue to protect the State of Israel with determination and strength, and just as they are protecting us we will protect them, with the same determination and strength.” Abbas’s Fatah and Hamas are backers of the current Palestinian unity government. Hamas, the terror group that controls Gaza, calls for the destruction of Israel.
On Saturday Israel froze NIS 500 million ($127 million) in Palestinian tax revenues collected on Ramallah’s behalf, in response to the ICC membership request.
The frozen funds are Palestinian taxes collected by Israel which were intended to be transferred to the PA’s coffers on Friday. Israel has threatened retaliation against the Palestinians should they move to join the court, and Washington condemned the Palestinian move as a hindrance to efforts at reaching an Israeli-Palestinian peace accord.
The PA submitted documents to the United Nations on Friday to join the International Criminal Court after Abbas signed the Rome Statute and 19 other international treaties on Wednesday.
On Thursday, Abbas asked the International Criminal Court to investigate Israel for war crimes allegedly committed during the 50-day war with Hamas and other Gaza terror groups last summer.
Israel lost 66 soldiers and seven civilians in the month-long conflict, while the Palestinian death toll surpassed 2,100, according to Hamas officials in Gaza. Israel said half of the Gaza dead were gunmen and blamed Hamas for civilian deaths because it operated from residential areas, placing Gazans in harm’s way.