Israel said to compile roster of officials who could face arrest over ICC probe

List of 200-300 people reportedly includes top officials who could be under fire if The Hague rules tribunal can be opened into alleged crimes in West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, left, then defense minister Moshe Ya'alon, center, and then IDF chief Benny Gantz at a press conference in Jerusalem on August 27, 2014. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, left, then defense minister Moshe Ya'alon, center, and then IDF chief Benny Gantz at a press conference in Jerusalem on August 27, 2014. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Israeli authorities have reportedly compiled an internal list of hundreds of military officers and defense officials who are at risk of being prosecuted by the International Criminal Court in The Hague.

The list thus far consists of some 200-300 people who could be arrested abroad for alleged war crimes, as the International Criminal Court moves toward possibly opening a war crimes probe against Israelis over actions in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, Haaretz reported Thursday.

The identity of those on the list is not known and some on the roster have not been informed, according to the unsourced report.

However, it likely includes some of Israel’s top leaders, especially those involved in the 2014 war in Gaza. Among them would be Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu; Defense Minister Benny Gantz, who was then at the helm of the Israel Defense Forces; then-defense minister and current opposition MK Moshe Ya’alon, and current IDF chief Aviv Kohavi, who was then head of Military Intelligence.

Former defense ministers Avigdor Liberman and Naftali Bennett, heads of the opposition Yisrael Beytenu and Yamina parties, respectively, may also be on the list, along with former and current heads of the Shin Bet security service and other, lower ranking officers.

There was no confirmation of the report by Israeli officials.

A digger removes cement and debris on August 20, 2014, of a home destroyed the night before in an Israeli airstrike on Gaza City’s Sheikh Radwan neighborhood, targeting the elusive Hamas military chief Muhammad Deif (photo credit: AFP/Mohammed Abed)

Israel has likely attempted to keep the list under wraps for fear that it could be seen by the ICC as an admission of guilt, the report said.

A three-judge panel at the ICC is set to rule in the coming days or weeks on whether the court has jurisdiction over the Palestinian territories and can launch an investigation into alleged war crimes committed in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem.

According to Hebrew media reports in June, Israel has appointed a team including officials from the National Security Council, the justice and foreign ministries, and the international department of the IDF military prosecution, to coordinate the country’s response to any ICC action.

On December 20, concluding a five-year preliminary examination of the “situation in Palestine,” the court’s chief prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, said she has “reasonable basis to believe that war crimes were committed” in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem by both the Israel Defense Forces and terrorist group Hamas, as well as other “Palestinian armed groups.”

However, she kicked the question of jurisdiction to the judges, delaying the case until they can rule.

Demonstrators carry banners outside the International Criminal Court, urging the court to prosecute Israel’s army for war crimes in The Hague, Netherlands, Friday, Nov. 29, 2019. (AP/Peter Dejong)

Israel has long argued that the ICC has no jurisdiction over the case, as there is no sovereign Palestinian state that could delegate to the court criminal jurisdiction over its territory and nationals.

Should the court open a war crimes tribunal, it is thought those those involved in 2014’s Operation Protective Edge will be the first to be put on the dock. Over 2,000 Palestinians were killed during the IDF’s 50-day air and ground campaign in Gaza meant to stem rocket fire and destroy a network of underground attack tunnels. Dozens of Israelis were also killed, including by intense missile fire at residential areas out of the Palestinian enclave.

A number of Israeli officials, including former foreign minister Tzipi Livni, have been forced to cancel trips to Europe in the past due to fears of arrest by local authorities over their role in military campaigns and alleged war crimes against Palestinians.

Raphael Ahren contributed to this report.

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