‘What About Hamas?’: Fact-checking Israel’s Response to ICC Prosecutor’s Call to Probe War Crimes

Since the announcement by International Criminal Court's Prosecutor in The Hague on Friday on the conclusions of its preliminary examination of the situation in the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip – a number of inaccuracies have spread in public discussion of the matter in Israel.

For example, politicians immediately condemned the “opening of the investigations,” while the ICC prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, has yet to open an investigation. Instead, she has determined that while there is a “reasonable basis to proceed with an investigation” – The question of the territorial jurisdiction of the court must first be determined. This is because the Gaza Strip, West Bank and East Jerusalem are disputed territories. Israel has asked for this determination as to the ICC’s jurisdiction, in part because of the legal opinion released by Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit following of the prosecutor’s announcement.

>> Read more: The road to an ICC probe of alleged Israeli war crimes: What happens next? | Explained

For example, MK Ayelet Shaked tweeted immediately after the release of Bensouda’s announcement on Friday that “the decision of the prosecutor of the ICC in The Hague to open an investigation against Israel is a political decision, hypocritical and expected, regrettably. She has no authority to do so and Israel must battle it with all the means at its disposal. Shabbat Shalom!” Nonetheless, Bensouda has not yet opened an official investigation, and so far has only asked the court to clarify the issue of jurisdiction.

Israeli Foreign Minister Yisrael Katz, who is expected to be knowledgeable about the details due to his position, tweeted that it cannot be “that the prosecutor is taking on herself and the court judicial authority against the law.”

“It is unacceptable for the Prosecutor to bend international law in order to fit it to Palestinian propaganda and political agenda,” tweeted Katz. As mentioned, she did not take the authority for herself but sent the matter to the court for clarification.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also was mistaken when he said at the beginning of the cabinet meeting on Sunday morning: “The ICC was established after the horrors of World War II, mainly the horrors that were inflicted on our people.” The ICC deals with the personal criminal culpability of individuals, and it was established in 2002 under the auspices of the Rome Statute. Netanyahu must certainly have meant the International Court of justice, which also operates in The Hague and was established in 1945 after World War II. It focuses on conflicts between countries and offers advisory legal opinions for the United Nations.