United States Secretary of State Mike Pompeo slammed the International Criminal Court at The Hague’s move to launch a probe into alleged Israeli war crimes in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. “We firmly oppose this and any other action that seeks to target Israel unfairly,” the top US diplomat said following an announcement by the ICC’s chief prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, that she was “satisfied that there is a reasonable basis to proceed with an investigation into the situation in Palestine.” In response, Pompeo, echoing Israel’s position, added: “We do not believe the Palestinians qualify as a sovereign state, and they therefore are not qualified to obtain full membership, or participate as a state in international organizations, entities, or conferences, including the ICC.” He further emphasized that the Trump Administration believes that “the path to lasting peace is through direct negotiations.” After acceding in 2015 to the Rome Statue – the ICC’s founding charter – the Palestinian Authority lodged a complaint relating primarily to the 50-day war a year earlier between Israel and Hamas. Following a long delay, Bensouda over the weekend concluded that there was “a reasonable basis” to believe that the Israel Defense Forces “willfully caus[ed] serious injury to body or health” with disproportionate attacks against terrorist-run Gaza in 2014. She also stressed that Hamas will be investigated for its indiscriminate firing of thousands of rockets at Israel, for perpetrating cross-border attacks, and for directing the 18-months-long protests along the shared border known as the “March of Return.” For his part, Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu called the ICC a “political tool” and reiterated that it “has no authority to adjudicate the matter. It has jurisdiction only in lawsuits presented by sovereign states, but there has never been a Palestinian state. We will not accept or acquiesce to this injustice,” he asserted. Referring to the PA’s claim that Israel’s civilian presence in the West Bank constitutes a breach of the Geneva Convention, Netanyahu mocked Bensouda’s suggestion that “it is a crime, a war crime, for Jews to live in their homeland, the land of the Bible, the land of our forefathers.” Meanwhile, the PA hailed her decision as “a long overdue step to move the process forward toward an investigation, after nearly five long and difficult years of preliminary examination.” Israel is not a member of the ICC and has long fought to prevent the tribunal from exploring alleged crimes committed by the Jewish state.
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