The International Criminal Court building
The International Criminal Court building Reuters

The International Criminal Court (ICC) will almost directly after Israel’s 72nd Independence Day decide whether it has the authority to make rulings on issues related to Judea, Samaria, and Gaza.

The case concerned dates back to the end of last year, although the issues it raises have been raised in various quarters for years already. Last December, the ICC’s Prosecutor stated her intention to decide the matter once and for all. If the ICC determines that it does indeed have a form of jurisdiction over the so-called “Occupied Territories,” it is expected that there may be a flood of cases submitted to the Court, possibly even resulting in Israeli leaders being put on trial for war crimes.

Itai Reuveni is a lead researcher at NGO Monitor, an independent organization based in Jerusalem which focuses on providing information and analysis on various non-governmental organizations, endeavoring, in its words, to “promote accountability and support discussion.” He spoke with Arutz Sheva on his organization’s activities and assessment of what the ICC will decide.

“Like other courts, the ICC at The Hague permits individuals, organizations, and even countries to submit briefs for its consideration,” he says. “In this particular case, more than fifty amicus briefs have been submitted, including seven from countries that belong to the ICC. All these briefs focus on the question under discussion – namely, whether the ICC has the authority to rule on matters within Judea, Samaria, and Gaza, and by extension to launch investigations and potentially open criminal cases against the State of Israel.”

“We have analyzed all these amicus briefs, and the first thing that became apparent was that many of them come from organizations which have already been campaigning for years to boycott Israel and chip away at its legitimacy in the international arena. Some actually have links to terror organizations such as the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP). Others are based in countries known to be hostile to Israel, such as Malaysia and Turkey.”

Nonetheless, the court will likely consider the content of these briefs when making its decision, Reuveni says. “This is what they hope when submitting the briefs, though there is no guarantee. According to our assessment, their arguments are faulty, but again, that’s not a guarantee of anything.”

“Faulty” meaning: “They present events out of context, erase the Palestinian ‘contribution’ to the incident… As you know, a half-truth is worse than a lie.” He adds that many of the briefs deliberately distort historical events and even rewrite the facts to their best advantage. Many of the briefs quote unreliable sources, and few if any acknowledge that there might be another side to the story.

“Another disturbing point is that several of the organizations who submitted amicus briefs actually have links to various European governments, and some of them have received funding from European governments for this anti-Israel activity.”

Who are all these organizations supposedly representing?

“They claim to be representing Palestinian individuals, people who are victims of violence, war crimes, and so forth. But this claim itself is dubious. Where are the signatures of these supposed victims? Who appointed all these organizations to represent them? But at the end of the day, despite all the valid misgivings regarding the content of the briefs and their authorship, we have no way of knowing if the ICC will check into them or not.”

What is the ICC expected to decide, or is it impossible to estimate?

“We expect the Prosecutor to rule that the ICC does indeed have the authority to judge on cases concerning Judea, Samaria, and Gaza. Given the background situation, it would be suicide on the ICC’s part to come to any other conclusion. Despite all the legal issues being raised, the ICC has indicated on many occasions that it accepts many of the basic claims being made by those who have submitted the amicus briefs. Most of those who wrote them have done so from the stated position that Israel is absolutely guilty of war crimes, and that the ICC is obligated to recognize ‘Palestine’ as a state and to treat Israel as a hostile occupying power.”

What is Israel’s response to this? Is there anything the country can do?

“Israel is not a member of the ICC, and has not submitted an official response to the Court. However, the government is exerting pressure on member states to present their own arguments in opposition to the plaintiffs. Germany has submitted a brief, as have Hungary, Uganda, and the Czech Republic.” However, with the exception of Germany, all these countries have recognized “Palestine” as a state in mutual agreements.

NGO Monitor has also submitted “its own amicus brief, together with another three organizations. In our brief, we focus on the authority of the Court to judge on the issues concerned, and argue that it does not have this authority. Among the reasons we cite are that the ICC is only supposed to have jurisdiction over national players, and there is, as yet, no ‘State of Palestine.’ Another key point is that many of the issues the plaintiffs raise are couched in general terms – ‘Israel builds in the settlements,’ or ‘Israel is killing large numbers of people in Gaza.’ However, the ICC was not set up to deal with such matters – courts deal in specifics, not in generalizations.”

Reuveni is pessimistic regarding the ICC’s conclusion – he foresees the Court being exploited by various organizations and factions in order to attack Israel, precisely as has already happened at the United Nations. And it is clear that the State of Israel foresaw exactly such a scenario, as it writes in an executive summary dating to last year (from the Office of the Attorney General):

“The State of Israel has been committed to the cause of international criminal justice from its outset. Established in the aftermath of the catastrophic events of the twentieth century, including the Holocaust perpetrated against the Jewish people, Israel was an early and passionate advocate for the establishment of an international criminal court that would hold accountable the perpetrators of heinous crimes that deeply shock the conscience of humanity … While extending its support to the values that motivated the establishment of the International Criminal Court (ICC), Israel has early on expressed deep concerns, also shared by other States, that the Court could be exposed to political manipulation that might lead it to stray from its mandate.”