Officials in the attorney general’s office have recently warned Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that making good on his pledge to annex the Jordan Valley could lead to the opening of International Criminal Court investigations against IDF officers and Israeli mayors in the West Bank, according to a report Monday.
“The European [Union Court of Justice] ruling on settlement labeling will just be the beginning,” officers warned Netanyahu, according to the Haaretz daily.
The warnings come amid Netanyahu’s repeated insistence in recent weeks that Israel currently enjoys a unique “window of opportunity” provided by a supportive Trump administration that would allow it to annex the Jordan Valley with surmountable international backlash.
The Likud leader says that he would carry out the move immediately upon the formation of a unity government.
Last week, the head prosecutor of the ICC, Fatou Bensouda, issued a report expressing “concern” over Netanyahu’s plans and said her office was following the matter closely as it wraps up its preliminary examination into “the Situation in Palestine,” that could lead to the opening of a full-blown criminal probe against the Jewish state.
Until now, legal and security officials in Israel have been able to successfully combat the majority of attempts to target Israel in the international legal arena. While the attorney general’s office has made clear that it does not itself see a problem with West Bank annexation, the ICC will likely think differently and Netanyahu should take that reality into account, Haaretz reported.
On November 12, the European Court of Justice, in response to a legal challenge brought by a winery in the West Bank, ruled that it was obligatory for all EU member states to label settlement goods.
On Sunday, Netanyahu insisted that he discussed the possible annexation of the Jordan Valley and other parts of the West Bank with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, during a meeting they held last week. The US State Department had denied an earlier Netanyahu claim that the topic was discussed between the two.
“It is time to apply Israeli sovereignty in the Jordan Valley and to regularize all communities in Judea and Samaria, those in the blocs and those outside them. They will be part of the State of Israel,” he vowed, using a biblical term for the West Bank in reference to the so-called settlement blocs that many believe will be retained in any peace agreement with the Palestinians.
“It was said that we had not discussed a formal plan and that was true, but the issue was raised and I raised it with Secretary of State Pompeo and I intend to raise the issue with the Trump administration,” the prime minister said.
On November 18, Pompeo appeared to pave the way for an Israeli annexation of the Jordan Valley, and possibly other parts of the West Bank, when he declared that the administration would no longer consider Israeli settlements as necessarily illegal, repudiating a 1978 State Department legal opinion that held that they were “inconsistent with international law.”
Raoul Wootliff and Raphael Ahren contributed to this report.