The Palestinian Authority on Wednesday reacted angrily to British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s statement a day earlier that London opposes the International Criminal Court’s decision to probe Israel for possible war crimes
In a letter to Conservative Friends of Israel, Johnson said, “We do not accept that the ICC has jurisdiction in this instance, given that Israel is not a party to the Statute of Rome and Palestine is not a sovereign state,” adding that the decision “gives the impression of being a prejudicial attack” on the Jewish state.
In response, the PA’s mission in London said the letter “marks a low point in UK-Palestine relations and undermines the UK’s credibility on the international stage.”
“The letter is a contradiction of international law. It is a contradiction of British policy. It subverts the rules-based global order. And it sets back efforts to secure a lasting and just peace in Palestine,” the diplomatic mission said.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson has confirmed UK’s opposition to ICC investigation, asserting it doesn’t have jurisdiction and gives impression of being "partial and prejudicial attack" on Israel.
— CFoI (@CFoI) April 13, 2021
“If Mr. Johnson disputes this, he disputes the legitimacy of the Court,” the Palestinian mission in London added.
In March, the ICC announced it would investigate possible war crimes committed by Israel and Palestinians following a request by the Palestinians, who joined the court in 2015 after being granted nonmember observer status in the UN General Assembly.
Israel has fiercely condemned the investigation, accusing the ICC of bias, claiming that Israel is demonstrably capable of investigating any alleged IDF crimes through its own legal hierarchies, and saying the ICC has no jurisdiction since the Palestinians do not have a state. Israel is not a member of the ICC, but its citizens could be subject to arrest abroad if warrants are issued.
Israel sent a formal response to the court on Friday. Though text of the response hasn’t been published, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office said in a statement Thursday that it would say Israel won’t cooperate with the investigation.
The ICC probe is expected to focus on three main areas: the 2014 war between Israel and Hamas; Israeli settlement policy; and the 2018 Great March of Return protests, a series of violent demonstrations along Gaza’s border with Israel that left dozens of Palestinians dead.
The probe will also look at terrorist rocket fire from Gaza at civilian areas in Israel.
Israeli observers noted the significance of the timing of the investigation’s span: On June 12, 2014, Hamas terrorists kidnapped and murdered three Israeli teenagers in the Gush Etzion area of the West Bank. Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda’s investigation — based on the request submitted by the so-called State of Palestine — is set to focus on events beginning from the following day.
The brutal terror attack, which horrified Israelis and drew international condemnation, was a pivotal moment in the lead-up to the fighting in Gaza later that summer. With the investigation set to consider events beginning on June 13, 2014, the crime could be excluded from the court’s investigation.
Bensouda is to be replaced as prosecutor in June by British lawyer Karim Khan. Israel reportedly hopes Khan may be less hostile or even cancel the probe.