[News] List of Israeli Targets Leaked: Tel Aviv Fears the Worst in ICC Investigation of War Crimes

Anti-Imperialist News news at freedomarchives.org
Wed Jul 29 15:48:21 EDT 2020



 By Ramzy Baroud - July 29, 2020 [1] 

When International Court of Justice (ICC) Prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda,
confirmed [2] last December that the Court has ample evidence to pursue
a war crimes investigation in occupied Palestine, the Israeli government
responded with the usual rhetoric, accusing the international community
of bias and insisting on Israel's 'right to defend itself.' 

Beneath the platitudes and typical Israeli discourse, the Israeli
government knew too well that an ICC investigation into war crimes in
Palestine could be quite costly. An investigation, in itself, represents
an indictment of sorts. If Israeli individuals were to be indicted for
war crimes, that is a different story, as it becomes a legal obligation
of ICC members to apprehend the criminals and hand them over to the

Israel remained publicly composed, even after Bensouda, last April,
elaborated on her December decision with a 60-page legal report [3],
titled: "Situation in the State of Palestine: Prosecution Response to
the Observations of Amici Curiae, Legal Representatives of Victims, and

In the report, the ICC addressed many of the questions, doubts and
reports submitted or raised in the four months that followed her earlier
decision. Countries such as Germany and Austria, among others, had used
their position as amici curiae - 'friends of the court' - to question
the ICC jurisdiction and the status of Palestine as a country. 

Bensouda insisted that "the Prosecutor is satisfied that there is a
reasonable basis to initiate an investigation into the situation in
Palestine under article 53(1) of the Rome Statute, and that the scope of
the Court's territorial jurisdiction comprises the West Bank, including
East Jerusalem, and Gaza ("Occupied Palestinian Territory")." 

However, Bensouda did not provide definitive timelines to the
investigation; instead, she requested that the ICC'S Pre-Trial Chamber
"confirm the scope of the Court's territorial jurisdiction in
Palestine," an additional step that is hardly required [4] since the
State of Palestine, a signatory of the Rome Statute, is the one that
actually referred the case directly to the Prosecutor's office. 

The April report, in particular, was the wake-up call for Tel Aviv.
Between the initial decision in December till the release of the latter
report, Israel lobbied on many fronts, enlisting the help of ICC members
and recruiting its greatest benefactor, Washington - which is not an ICC
member - to bully the Court so it may reverse its decision. 

On May 15, US Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, warned the ICC against
pursuing the investigation, targeting Bensouda, in particular, for her
decision to hold war criminals in Palestine accountable. 

The US slapped [5] unprecedented sanctions against the ICC on June 11,
with President Donald Trump issuing an 'executive order' that authorizes
the freezing of assets and a travel ban against ICC officials and their
families. The order also allows for the punishing of other individuals
or entities that assist the ICC in its investigation. 

Washington's decision to carry out punitive measures against the very
Court that was established for the sole purpose of holding war criminals
accountable is both outrageous and abhorrent. It also exposes
Washington's hypocrisy - the country that claims to defend human rights
is attempting to prevent legal accountability by those who have violated
human rights. 

Upon its failure to halt the ICC legal procedures regarding its
investigation of war crimes, Israel began to prepare for the worst. On
July 15, Israeli daily newspaper, Haaretz, reported [6] about a 'secret
list' that was drawn up by the Israeli government. The list includes
"between 200 and 300 officials", ranging from politicians to military
and intelligence officials, who are subject to arrest abroad, should the
ICC officially open the war crimes investigation. 

Names begin at the top of the Israeli political pyramid, among them
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his current coalition partner,
Benny Gantz. 

The sheer number of Israeli officials on the list is indicative of the
scope of the ICC's investigation, and, somehow, is a self-indictment, as
the names include former Israeli Defense Ministers - Moshe Ya'alon,
Avigdor Lieberman and Naftali Bennett; current and former army chiefs of
staffs - Aviv Kochavi, Benny Gantz and Gadi Eisenkot and current and
former heads of internal intelligence, the Shin Bet - Nadav Argaman and
Yoram Cohen. 

Respected international human rights organizations have already,
repeatedly, accused all these individuals of serious human rights abuses
during Israel's lethal wars on the besieged Gaza Strip, starting with
the so-called 'Operation Cast Lead' in 2008-9. 

But the list is far more extensive, as it covers "people in much more
junior positions, including lower-ranking military officers and,
perhaps, even officials involved in issuing various types of permits to
settlements and settlement outposts." 

Israel, thus, fully appreciates the fact that the international
community still insists that the construction of illegal colonies in
occupied Palestine, the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians and the
transfer of Israeli citizens to occupied land are all inadmissible under
international law and tantamount to war crimes. Netanyahu must be
disappointed to learn that all of Washington's concessions to Israel
under Trump's presidency have failed to alter the position of the
international community and the applicability of international law in
any way. 

Furthermore, it would not be an exaggeration to argue that Tel Aviv's
postponement of its plan to illegally annex nearly a third of the West
Bank is directly linked to the ICC's investigation, for the annexation
would have completely thwarted Israel's friends' efforts aimed at
preventing the investigation from ever taking place. 

While the whole world, especially Palestinians, Arabs and their allies,
still anxiously await the final decision by the Pre-Trial Chamber,
Israel will continue its overt and covert campaign to intimidate the ICC
and any other entity that aims to expose Israeli war crimes and to try
Israeli war criminals. 

Washington, too, will continue to strive to ensure Netanyahu, Gantz, and
the "200 to 300" other Israeli officials never see their day in court. 

However, the fact that a "secret list" exists is an indication that Tel
Aviv understands that this era is different and that international law,
which has failed Palestinians for over 70 years, may, for once, deliver,
however a small measure of justice. 

_- Ramzy Baroud is a journalist and the Editor of The Palestine
Chronicle. He is the author of five books. His latest is "__These Chains
Will Be Broken_ [7]_: Palestinian Stories of Struggle and Defiance in
Israeli Prisons" (Clarity Press, Atlanta). Dr. Baroud is a Non-resident
Senior Research Fellow at the Center for Islam and Global Affairs
(CIGA), Istanbul Zaim University (IZU). His website is
__www.ramzybaroud.net_ [8] 


[1] https://www.palestinechronicle.com/writers/ramzy-baroud
[3] https://www.icc-cpi.int/CourtRecords/CR2020_01746.PDF
[8] http://www.ramzybaroud.net/
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