By Dan Williams
JERUSALEM (Reuters) – Israel will tell the International Criminal Court that it does not recognize the authority of the tribunal, which is planning to investigate possible war crimes in the Palestinian territories, the Ynet news website reported on Thursday.
The Israeli website said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had decided not to co-operate with the investigation after meeting with senior ministers and government officials ahead of a deadline Friday to respond to an ICC notification letter.
An Israeli official confirmed to Reuters that the government would indeed respond to the court letter. But Israel did not immediately expand on what the answer would bring.
Israel is not a party to the Rome Statute established by the ICC and is therefore by definition not a party to the court.
ICC prosecutors said the letters were sent on March 9 to all interested parties, giving them one month to inform the court if they were conducting their own investigations into the alleged crimes and want an ICC investigation to be postponed while this is ongoing.
The Palestinians said they would co-operate with the ICC, whose investigation into allegations of war crimes in the Israeli-occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip, where Palestinian Islamists took control after Israel withdrew in 2005.
“We have sent the answer to the ICC,” said Omar Awadallah, a senior official at the Palestinian Foreign Ministry.
“Full co-operation with the ICC will continue from the State of Palestine, as a member state of the tribunal, to achieve justice for the victims of the Palestinian people and to hold Israel accountable for its crimes,” Awadallah said.
In a speech Wednesday marking Israeli observance of the Holocaust, Netanyahu called the ICC investigation an “absurdity.”
“The establishment of the Hague tribunal was inspired by the Nuremberg tribunal, which tried Nazi war criminals after World War II,” he said. “But a body set up to protect human rights became a body that effectively protects those who violate human rights.”
He was referring to the Palestinian militant group Hamas, against which Israel waged a war in 2014 in Gaza and which an ICC prosecutor said may have committed crimes as well.
(Report by Dan Williams and Ari Rabinovitch; Edited by Mark Heinrich)
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