In first test of Biden’s stance on Israel– president rolls over

As you know the International Criminal Court ruled Friday that it has jurisdiction to undertake an investigation of war crimes in occupied Palestinian territories, including Israeli settlements and its slaughter of civilians in Gaza. The decision has big symbolic resonance, and there’s been a lot of response. I wanted to round up some of the usual suspects.

The State Department began Friday by issuing a neutral legal statement opposing the ICC’s jurisdiction (responding to AP reporter Matt Lee’s opening question). “We have serious concerns about the ICC’s attempts to exercise its jurisdiction over Israeli personnel…. [T]he court’s jurisdiction should be reserved for countries that consent to it or that are referred by the UN Security Council.”

State spokesperson Ned Price went further on twitter, embracing Israel: “We will continue to uphold President Biden’s strong commitment to Israel and its security, including opposing actions that seek to target Israel unfairly.”

Aaron David Miller said the prompt response was telling.

The Biden Adm left no doubt about its reaction to ICC decision to probe Israeli and Palestinian war crimes. With Iran a top priority and Palestinian issue not; and facing greatest domestic challenge since FDR, Biden wisely just said no to this one.

The rightwing Israel lobby group AIPAC applauded Biden’s alacrity.

Today’s ruling by the @IntlCrimCourt sets a dangerous precedent that threatens America and Israel. We commend the Biden administration’s principled stand in support of Israel, and against this outrageous jurisdictional overreach.

AIPAC, which of course is a US megaphone for the Israeli government, has been retweeting Israeli outrage over the ICC decision, including from liberal Zionist white knight Benny Gantz, saying [by computer translation] the ruling “is unfounded and intended to be a tool in the hands of the enemies of the State of Israel, and those who seek to harm it by political exploitation of international bodies.”

Another megaphone, the American Jewish Committee, “regrets” the ICC’s overreach, thanks the Biden administration, and says Palestinians need to “to return to the path of peace” (not pressing cases against war crimes).

Another megaphone, the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, says the ICC has no jurisdiction when there is no sovereign Palestinian state, and the ruling just reflects the “demonstrated anti-Israel bias of ICC Proseuctor Fatou Bensouda, who has led these efforts to target the Jewish state.”

Dennis Ross is of course Israel’s lawyer, formerly as a White House envoy. He said on Friday the ruling sets back the peace process: “On dubious legal grounds, the ICC ruled today that it has jurisdiction to launch a war crimes investigation against the Israeli government and Hamas leaders. Because the Israeli-Palestinian conflict can only be resolved politically, not legally, progress is now harder to achieve.” (FYI, The peace process has only advanced Israeli occupation over nearly 30 years.)

Netanyahu said that the ruling is “pure antisemitism.” He uses Trump-era rhetoric, “fake” news.

When the ICC investigates Israel for fake war crimes – this is pure antisemitism. The court established to prevent atrocities like the Nazi Holocaust against the Jewish people is now targeting the one state of the Jewish people. First, it outrageously claims that when Jews live in our homeland, this is a war crime. Second, it claims that when democratic Israel defends itself against terrorists who murder our children and rocket our cities – we are committing another war crime. Yet the ICC refuses to investigate brutal dictatorships like Iran and Syria, who commit horrific atrocities almost daily. As Prime Minister of Israel, I can assure you this: We will fight this perversion of justice with all our might!

In the Hebrew version of that statement, Netanyahu made clear what he meant by the Jewish homeland: Jews living in “Shiloh, Hebron, Beit El, even our capital Jerusalem.” Shiloh and Beit El are small colonies deep in the West Bank that prevent any possibility of a viable Palestinian state. While Hebron and Jerusalem are cities with large Palestinian populations, essential to any notion of Palestinian “self-determination,” places in which Palestinians have been denied all but token rights.

As to the attacks on terrorists, Israel killed 500 children in Gaza in its last major assault in 2014 )an assault for which Obama provided complete impunity).

Israel is clearly on the defensive. The Israeli Foreign Ministry claims Israel can investigate itself.

The State of Israel is a robust democracy with an independent and effective legal system that is deeply respected all over the world.

Foreign Minister Gabi_Ashkenazi echoes Gantz’s talk of enemies:

Today’s decision by the ICC distorts international law and turns this institution into a political tool of anti-Israel propaganda.

Haaretz reports in Hebrew that the Israeli army is briefing Israeli soldiers on the ICC, presumably to avoid visiting certain countries where they might get arrested.

For a dissenting voice, Gideon Levy in Haaretz says that it is a good thing that Israel senses some accountability for its actions.

Quite a few Israelis in the military and the political establishments will begin to sweat in the months to come. Seasoned lawyers will be hired to defend them. Some of them will be afraid to travel abroad for fear of arrest. That is good news. Perhaps that way they’ll begin to think differently about their actions. Perhaps the fear of prosecution will constrain them in the future. Perhaps in the next election season a “centrist” candidate like Benny Gantz will not stand up and boast about the number of graves in Lebanon for which he is responsible.

Levy points out that another liberal Zionist hero, Yair Golan, the retired general who is now part of the left wing party Meretz party, “obviates” the need for a right wing, by saying Israel has committed no war crimes in the territory. Levy points out that Israel is incapable of investigating its crimes.

At least 1,000 innocent civilians were killed during Operation Protective Edge; more than 200 unarmed protesters have been killed at the Gaza border fence; every settlement is a war crime. These clear truths have never penetrated the mendacious and brainwashed Israeli discourse. Perhaps now a prosecutor from Gambia, a judge from Benin and a judge from France will do what our esteemed and exalted Supreme Court has never dared to do, to its shame.

Liberal Zionists are in a pinch on all this, because they are so opposed to the “occupation.” Coincidentally, on Friday the liberal Zionist group J Street, urged the conditioning of US aid over Israel’s repeated demolition of a Bedouin village in the West Bank– and settlement policy generally on which it is testing Joe Biden:

“This demolition is just the latest example of the Israeli government’s systematic policy of de facto annexation of sensitive areas of occupied territory – a policy that includes demolitions, evictions and destructive military training operations on Palestinian lands, all of which have taken place in just the two weeks since the new president’s inauguration.” [emphasis mine]

J Street calls on Biden to act swiftly and declare a new norm, that the U.S. won’t protect Israel from the consequences of such actions.

Make clear to the Israeli government that the United States will not use its voice and vote in international organizations to shield Israel from legitimate criticism of such actions and related violations of international law.

In another sign that Biden wants no friction on the Israel portfolio, his nominee to be US ambassador, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, trashed BDS, the nonviolent campaign targeting Palestinian human rights violations, at her Senate confirmation hearing, thanks to FMEP.

Rob Portman of Indiana pressed her on BDS. Thomas-Greenfield:

…I find the actions and the approach that BDS has taken toward Israel unacceptable. It verges on antisemitism and it is important that they not be allowed to have a voice at the United Nations. I intend to work very strongly against that.”

The U.S. has no closer friend than Israel, she assured Ben Cardin of MD.

“On the issue of Israel, President Biden has been one of Israel’s strongest supporters over the last 50 years of his career, you all know that quite well. And the President believes that the ties between our two countries are rooted in our strategic interest and our shared values. So if I am confirmed…I look forward to standing with Israel, standing against the unfair targeting of Israel, the relentless resolutions that are proposed against Israel unfairly, and I hope to work closely and look forward in fact, to working closely with the israeli embassy and with the Israeli ambassador to work to bolster israel’s security and to expand economic opportunities for israelis and americans alike,  and widen the circle of peace. I think it goes without saying that Israel has no closer friend than the United States and I will reflect that in my actions at the United Nations.”

A couple more comments. A respected analyst of legal findings who wishes to remain anonymous says the ICC ruling will lead nowhere, because the ICC will ultimately determine that under Oslo Israel has the right to investigate alleged crimes in Palestine.

[I]n the current ICC decision, it says in the very last three paragraphs, that the issue of whether the Oslo accord bars intervention by the ICC will be determined later in the investigation, when it comes time for the Prosecutor to ask Israel to hand over potential defendants and evidence.  Israel then has the right to claim its own jurisdiction over these criminal cases.  So long as the PA won’t renounce the Oslo accord, it can’t win. So if Israel uses this defense of having already conducted good-faith investigations of its own, thus preempting an ICC intervention, it will almost certainly also stand up..

This analyst says the stronger legal footing is B’Tselem’s recent finding of an apartheid regime between the river and sea.

My bottom line, is the ICC  is a bridge to nowhere.  Better to follow B’Tselem’s lead, say that there is no occupied Palestinian territories, no State of Palestine, there is ONE JEWISH SUPREMACIST STATE from the Jordan to the Mediterranean that denies Palestinians their basic rights.

Lastly, Remi Brulin’s comment on a media environment that is indifferent to Israeli war crimes:

I remain STUNNED that 3 years after bestseller by well respected Israeli journalist who works for @nytimes revealed that Ariel Sharon personally conducted #terrorist car bombing campaign that killed hundreds in 1980s NOT a SINGLE US media outlet has found this to be newsworthy

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