International Criminal Court at The Hague
International Criminal Court at The HagueiStock

Efforts by the Trump administration to block an international probe of the US military’s operations in Afghanistan could have a major impact not only on international investigations against the IDF, but also shield Israeli settlements in Judea and Samaria from legal scrutiny abroad, an international law expert said Sunday.

Last week, the International Criminal Court in The Hague announced that it would not be pursuing a probe into allegations of war crimes allegedly committed by the US military in Afghanistan between 2003 and 2004.

ICC chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda had requested permission to probe the allegations in late 2017.

The US has never joined the ICC and does not recognize its authority over American citizens, saying it poses a threat to national sovereignty.

The ICC’s decision not to permit the probe came a week after Bensouda's US visa was revoked over a possible probe involving American soldiers' in Afghanistan.

On Friday, the Trump administration welcomed the ICC’s decision not to open an investigation into US conduct in Afghanistan.

In a statement responding to the decision, the US reaffirmed its position that the ICC has no jurisdiction over the US or American citizens.

The statement added that the ICC has no jurisdiction over Israeli citizens, and vowed a “swift and vigorous response” to any attempt to prosecute either Americans or Israelis.

“Since the creation of the ICC, the United States has consistently declined to join the court because of its broad, unaccountable prosecutorial powers; the threat it poses to American national sovereignty; and other deficiencies that render it illegitimate,” the White House said in a statement it attributed to Trump.

“Any attempt to target American, Israeli, or allied personnel for prosecution will be met with a swift and vigorous response.”

On Sunday, Professor Eugene Kontorovich, director of International Law at the Jerusalem-based Kohelet Policy Forum, said the ICC’s decision not to open a probe into US activity in Afghanistan would have major ramifications not only for future bids to launch ICC investigations into IDF activity, but also demands for ICC probes of Israeli settlement activity in Judea and Samaria.

“The Trump Administration’s hardball approach to fighting prosecutions of US soldiers by The Hague-based International Criminal Court today was totally vindicated last week when the ICC threw out a long-pending investigation into crimes committed by U.S. and other forces in Afghanistan,” said Kontorovich in a statement Sunday.

Kontorovich called the Trump administration’s statement Friday an “extraordinary show of support” which would likely deter future ICC probes of Israel.

“Now the US is promising to also imposes sanctions on the Court if it proceeds with an investigation into Israel about settlements in the West Bank. Israel, like the US, did not join the Court’s treaty. This is an extraordinary show of support from America, and may help deter a biased and unjust investigation.”

“Pompeo and Bolton's strategy has paid off massively, resulting in the closing of an investigation that has been hanging over the heads of American soldiers for more than a decade. Now Israel has been pulled into America’s protective umbrella.”