An Israeli minister has called on his government to dismantle the Palestinian Authority (PA) government in a reaction to the International Criminal Court’s (ICC) decision to launch an investigation into alleged Israeli war crimes.
In a tweet posted on Saturday, Bezalel Smotrich, the Israeli minister of transport, also labelled the ICC “a political, antisemitic institution”. His comments were in response to remarks by Fatou Bensouda, chief prosecutor of the ICC, on Friday that there was reasonable basis to investigate alleged war crimes in the occupied Palestinian territories of the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip.
The decision comes after the PA formally submitted a request in May 2018 to refer the file of Israeli war crimes against the Palestinian people, that has been met with ire from Israel.
Smotrich asked Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to give the PA a 48-hour ultimatum to withdraw the charges or dismantle the Palestinian government “immediately” if the deadline was not met. “The advantages of the PA’s existence are not [and have not been for a long time] worth the diplomatic damage it causes us,” Smotrich said. “It is causing great harm to Israel in international forums, and it is better for Israel to work towards its collapse.”
The PA, which signed up to the ICC in 2015, has welcomed the ICC inquiry, with the foreign ministry calling it a “long overdue step” and has urged the court to move faster.
However, Netanyahu slammed the decision, calling it “a baseless and outrageous” one, while his political rival and head of the Blue and White party, Benny Gantz, tweeted that Bensouda’s decision was motivated by political and not legal means. “The Israeli army is one of the most moral militaries in the world,” Gantz added.
Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit also added his voice to the chorus of Israeli indignation and said that he “resolutely rejects” the ICC’s decision. “The state of Israel is a democratic, law-abiding country, which is committed to honoring international law and humanitarian values, and acts to promote them,” he said in a statement to Israeli media on Saturday.
A full ICC investigation could possibly lead to charges against individuals being brought, as states cannot be charged. Israel and its ally, the United States, 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, war crimes and crimes against humanity.
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