By Yoav Limor, Israel Hayom—
Starting Friday evening, Israel’s diplomatic-security-legal systems have been on high alert because of the International Criminal Court’s decision that it has the jurisdiction to investigation Israel for alleged “war crimes.”
The court’s ruling throws the hot potato decision about whether or not to launch an investigation against Israel into the lap of ICC Chief Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda. Next month, Bensouda’s successor will be elected (the change of guard is slated for this summer), and it’s still unclear whether or not Bensouda will make a decision by then, and if so, what. She can decide to launch an investigation or to shelve the idea. Israel, obviously, will exert heavy pressure to have the case closed, but high-ranking officials have expressed regret about whether that will happen without what they call “heavy guns” from the US and other western nations.
Israel has been preparing for a few months for the possibility that an investigation of this kind might be launched, and its possible ramifications. As a first step, a list was prepared of a few hundred officials who might become the subject of a probe. The list includes some of the top government echelon (heads of states and ministers are not immune from ICC trial), as well as top officials in the defense establishment and many IDF commanders, including senior and mid-level officers who fought in Operation Protective Edge in 2014; as well as events near the Gaza border fence in 2018. The list has not been made public out of concern that the individuals could become potential suspects in an investigation. However, it is likely that all senior officials will be briefed on what to do going forward. Past experience teaches us that they will be asked to inform the government ahead of time about every planned trip abroad to avoid situations in which they are detained outside of Israel.
While Israel expects that any decision about an investigation, should one be launched, will be announced, the chief prosecutor has the authority to open a secret probe. In such a situation, Israel would find it difficult to defend officials who might find themselves under investigation, and will need help from any countries where these officials might be. All ICC member nations are required to respect the court’s rules, and therefore arrest anyone whom the ICC wants to investigate and hand them over to investigators, but Israel is hoping that in an “extreme scenario,” as one high-ranking official put it, “that can be avoided.” One way of ensuring that would be to receive arrest warrants ahead of time and prevent those named therein from traveling abroad. Continue Reading….