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“This will not deter us, not in the slightest,” Israel's prime minister said.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu dismissed Wednesday the decision by the International Criminal Court (ICC) to launch an investigation into war crimes allegedly committed by the Israeli state in the occupied Palestinian territories, including the settlements, saying it will not restrain Israel from further expanding them.
“This will not deter us, not in the slightest,” Netanyahu said at a conference of pro-settlement advocates in celebration of United States Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s statement on the lawfulness of Israeli settlements.
Pompeo had declared in November that the “establishment of Israeli civilian settlements in the West Bank is not per se inconsistent with international law.”
“Pompeo’s declaration is the appropriate response to the scandalous decision of the International Criminal Court in The Hague to investigate the settlement enterprise in Judea and Samaria, which, brazenly, is considered a war crime,” Israel’s PM commented, using the West Bank’s biblical name.
The idea of “ethnically cleansing” the West Bank of Jews was inadmissible and must be discarded, he argued.
“We never lost our right to live in Judea and Samaria,” he added.
“The only thing we lost, temporarily, was the ability to assume our rights after 1948, between the War of Independence and the Six-Day War. And when we returned there, we didn’t return to a strange land that we stole from its previous owners,” Netanyahu said. “This is a total distortion of the historical truth.”
Netanyahu went on to say that his country should take advantage of the current U.S. administration’s pro-Israel positions, making then an allusion at his wish to see U.S. President Donald Trump reelected.
A window of opportunity is currently open, he said, but it will remain open only “for a brief period of time. I hope it won’t be so brief, but I can’t go into it now."
ICC’s chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda had announced earlier in December the existence of “a reasonable basis to proceed with an investigation,” adding the probe would be carried out in the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip.
Bensouda had also declared that Israeli settlements in Palestinian territories may constitute a war crime.
The court’s move to launch an investigation followed a request made in May 2018 by the Palestinian Authority (PA), urging the ICC “to investigate [...] past, ongoing and future crimes committed in all parts of the territory of the State of Palestine.”
A probe could possibly result in charges against individuals, as states cannot be prosecuted.
The ICC started its functions in 2002 to prosecute individuals for the international crimes of genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes, and crimes of aggression.
Israel, as well as the United States, have refused to sign up to in support of the court.