Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday accused the International Criminal Court of “pure anti-Semitism” for saying that it was preparing to probe alleged war crimes committed by Israel in the Palestinian territories.
“Pure anti-Semitism, that’s what the ICC has done, and we will not bow our heads,” Netanyahu said at a Likud party event to mark the first night of the eight-day Hanukkah festival.
The International Criminal Court, “that should know otherwise, has set forth decrees that are just as anti-Semitic as the decrees of the Seleucid Greeks,” said Netanyahu, drawing on the themes of Hanukkah, which celebrates the victory of Jews in second century BCE Jerusalem over an occupying Greek army that had tried to suppress Judaism.
“They [the ICC] say that Jews do not have a right to settle in the Jewish homeland,” the prime minister continued. “They say the Jews do not have a right to live in the land of the Jews, in the Land of Israel. Well, we say, shame on you.
“The light of truth lights here and we will overcome you, just as we overcame other anti-Semites in history,” he said.
The ICC’s top prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, announced on Friday that there was a “basis” for proceeding with an investigation into crimes allegedly committed in the Palestinian territories, including Israel’s settlement policy, the 2014 Gaza war, and the Israeli response to violent protests on the Gaza Strip border.
The ICC also said it would look at the targeting of civilians by Hamas and other Palestinian terror groups.
The prosecutor has referred the matter of the probe to the Hague-based tribunal to rule on the specific territory over which it has jurisdiction, as Israel is not a member of the court.
Also Sunday, Israel’s cabinet approved a request by Netanyahu to classify its deliberations about the ICC’s move and agreed that further discussions on the matter would be held in the high-level security cabinet, Hebrew media said.
The security cabinet was set to convene later Sunday at the Foreign Ministry for a special meeting on the ICC, reports said.
Two unnamed ministers told Channel 12 news that publication of Israeli efforts to thwart the ICC’s launching of an investigation could damage the national interests.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Friday condemned the court’s announcement, saying it “unfairly targets” Israel, but did not say whether the US would act against the ICC over the move.
The Trump administration has previously threatened the court with sanctions and visa denial if it investigates Americans or Israelis. In April, it revoked ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda’s visa over a possible investigation of American troops’ actions in Afghanistan.