After the International Criminal Court announced that it would launch a probe into alleged Israeli war crimes during last summer’s Operation Protective Edge in the Gaza Strip, Israel said on Sunday it was lobbying its allies who are members of the ICC to cut funding to the tribunal.
Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman told Israel Radio that Jerusalem “will demand of our friends in Canada, in Australia and in Germany simply to stop funding it,” according to a Reuters report.
“This body represents no one. It is a political body,” Liberman said of the ICC. “There are a quite a few countries — I’ve already taken telephone calls about this — that also think there is no justification for this body’s existence.”
Liberman later met with Canadian Foreign Minister John Baird in Jerusalem and told him that the ICC probe was unjustified.
“It’s inconceivable that a terror organization is lodging a criminal petition against Israel,” he said. “Hamas used their own civilians as human shields while it fired rockets at Israel. The Palestinian Authority is making a mockery of International law.”
Baird is in the region for five days of meetings with Israeli and Palestinian officials. Earlier he met with Palestinian Authority Foreign Minister Riyad Maliki in Ramallah, where Palestinian protesters threw eggs and shoes at the visiting Canadian’s convoy.
In a brief statement to reporters, Baird deplored the ICC’s decision.
“We look forward to discussing a range of issues, from trade to security, to the deeply regrettable decision at the ICC,” he said before meeting Liberman.
Baird later reiterated his position on the ICC decision in a meeting with Israeli President Reuven Rivlin. “The decision by the prosecutor is deeply ironic, awards terror, and amounts to blasphemy against international law,” Baird said. “In the current situation, terrorist organizations are not held accountable, and have a win-win situation — whether by terrorizing Israel’s citizens, or making claims against Israel when it defends its citizens. It is for the international law to clarify what a state can do in order to defend its people from terrorism.”
Last Friday the ICC opened a preliminary investigation into the Gaza conflict, during which some 2,200 Palestinian were killed, according to Gazan figures. Israel maintains that at least half of those were combatants and that the high number of civilian casualties was due to Hamas embedding rocket launchers in residential area. Israeli casualties included 66 IDF soldiers and six civilians.
The probe, however, may also pave the way for Palestinians to be prosecuted for war crimes.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu denounced the move as “scandalous” and Washington said it was a “tragic irony” that the Jewish state, which had been hit by “thousands of terrorist rockets… is now being scrutinized by the ICC.”
Canada played a central role in establishing the ICC and is a key supporter of the court.
AFP contributed to this report.