“Israel may have the right to put others on trial, but certainly no one has the right to put the Jewish people and the State of Israel on trial.” — Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon*
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu urged United States President Joe Biden not to lift sanctions imposed on International Criminal Court (ICC) officials by the administration of former President Donald Trump, according to a report by Axios.
The Biden administration had pledged to “thoroughly review” the sanctions imposed by the Trump administration, which had accused the Hague-based tribunal of infringing on US sovereignty by authorising an investigation into alleged war crimes by the US forces in Afghanistan.
Israel has increased pressure on the ICC following its ruling in early February that the court’s jurisdiction extends to the occupied Palestinian territories, paving the way for it to open investigations into war crimes committed by both Israelis and Palestinians, according to the report.
Israel and the US were quick to condemn the court’s announcement, with Israel accusing the court of “pure anti-Semitism” and the US saying it had “serious concerns” about the court’s decision and adding that it was reviewing the ruling.
Neither ally is party to the Rome Statute, the treaty that established the ICC, and both have sought to shield their citizens from prosecution in the court.
Washington, however, has supported and engaged with the court in various forms since it began operations in 2002.
The fight over the court’s jurisdiction has presented an early challenge for the Biden administration, which is seeking to re-engage in multilateral organizations.
Israel, meanwhile, has reportedly urged allies to pressure ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda, one of the officials currently under US sanctions, no to move forward with any investigation involving Israelis.
On February 13, British lawyer Karim Khan was elected as the next prosecutor of the ICC to replace Bensouda, who retires in June. Khan, 50, led a United Nations probe into atrocities by the ISIL (ISIS) armed group.
Axios reported that Israeli diplomats are urging US officials to keep the sanctions as leverage and that the issue was also raised during a call between US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and his Israeli counterpart Gabriel Ashkenazi.