Avichai Mandelblit
Avichai MandelblitPhoto by Hadas Parush/FLASH90

The International Criminal Court in The Hague has no jurisdiction to rule on the legality of Israeli towns in Judea and Samaria, Israel’s Attorney General, Avichai Mandelblit argued in a new legal opinion published Friday.

The Attorney General’s office released a statement Friday afternoon announced that Mandelblit had completed a legal ruling on the ICC’s right to adjudicate matters in Israel, typically at the behest of the Palestinian Authority and its allies.

In his opinion, Mandelblit determined that the ICC has no jurisdiction to rule on matters in Israel – which is not a party to the Rome Statue of the International Criminal Court – because the Palestinian Authority is not a state, and that it has been long established that the final status of the territories under dispute must be settled by negotiations, not criminal proceedings.

The PA, Mandelblit writes, has pushed the court “to rule on political questions which need to be clarified by negotiations, not through criminal cases.”

But, added the Attorney General “only sovereign states can empower the court with authority to judge criminal cases.”

“The Palestinian Authority, quite clearly, does not fulfill the requirements of being a state based on the standards of international law and the Rome Statue.”

Thus, Mandeblit argues, any actions by the ICC against Israel regarding the Palestinian Authority have no legal force.

Mandelblit published the opinion as the ICC prepares to issue a decision on whether to open criminal investigations into two cases pushed by the Palestinian Authority – the establishment of Israeli towns in Judea and Samaria; and Israeli military actions during the 2014 war against Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

While Mandelblit has argued in the past that the ICC does not have jurisdiction in regards to the 2014 Gaza war and Israeli towns in Judea and Samaria, including comments in 2018, this is the first formal legal opinion issued by the Attorney General in the matter.