Israel is drawing up a secret list of hundreds of officials ahead of a decision by the International Criminal Court (ICC) on whether to investigate alleged war crimes in the Palestinian territories, according to Israeli media.
The list is made up of 200 to 300 military and intelligence officials, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz, Israeli daily Haaretz reported Thursday. The officials on the list might be exposed to arrest abroad if the ICC launches an investigation into suspected war crimes committed by Israel in east Jerusalem, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Israeli authorities are keeping the list secret as its exposure could put the officials on the list in jeopardy, the daily said. The consideration is that the ICC is likely to view such a list as an official Israeli recognition of its involvement in the cases under investigation.
The ICC is expected to make a decision soon on whether to confirm the proposal by Fatou Bensouda, the chief prosecutor of the ICC, to launch a probe into suspected Israeli war crimes in Palestine since 2014, the year of Operation Protective Edge.
The ICC launched a preliminary probe in 2015 into allegations of war crimes and crimes against humanity in Israel and Palestine. The nearly five-year preliminary investigation has looked at the 2014 Gaza war, which left 2,251 dead on the Palestinian side, the majority civilians, and 74 on the Israeli side, most of them soldiers. The issue is highly sensitive, with former White House national security adviser John Bolton threatening to arrest ICC judges if they moved against Israel or the U.S. It has also looked at violence near the Israel-Gaza border in 2018.
Last December, the ICC prosecutor refused to press charges over a deadly 2010 Israeli raid on a flotilla bringing aid to Gaza and urged that the probe be shut. Nine Turkish activists aboard the Mavi Marmara aid vessel, part of a flotilla traveling to the Gaza Strip to deliver humanitarian aid, were killed on May 31, 2010, when Israeli troops stormed the vessel at sea before it reached the Palestinian territories. A 10th victim succumbed to his wounds in 2014 after being in a coma for years.
The ICC has the authority to hear cases of war crimes, genocide and crimes against humanity committed on the territory of the 123 countries that have signed up to it. Israel and the U.S. have both refused to sign up to the court, which was set up in 2002 to be the only global tribunal trying the world’s worst crimes. The Palestinians, who signed up to the ICC in 2015, have already accepted the court’s jurisdiction but have repeatedly urged the court to move faster.
Encouraged by Trump’s so-called “Deal of the Century” proposal, this May Netanyahu announced that Israel would formally annex the Jordan Valley and all settlement blocs in the occupied West Bank.
The West Bank, including east Jerusalem, is viewed as occupied territory under international law, thus making all Jewish settlements there – as well as the planned annexation – illegal. Palestinian officials have threatened to abolish bilateral agreements with Israel if it goes ahead with annexation, which would further undermine a two-state solution. Turkey and much of the international community do not recognize Israel’s sovereignty over the territories it has occupied since 1967.