Justice long overdue?
The International Criminal Court's announcement of a new investigation into war crimes in the Palestine Territories has thrown Israel and its US sympathisers into disarray. Following the court's decision in early February that it has jurisdiction in the case, the court announced its intent is what is seen as a victory for the Palestinian side. For quite some time, ever since Palestine became a signatory to the ICC, it has been engaged in attempts to internationalise the issue in a way that would take the matter out of US hands. The end goal for the Palestinian side is not just to have an investigation of war crimes in relation to the 2014 Gaza War but also a broader investigation into Israel's decades-long activity of settlement building in disputed areas. While the investigation will likely also reveal crimes committed on the Palestinian side, there is confidence that Israel will find this investigation far more problematic. Judging by Israeli reaction, they may well be right. From the moment the investigation was announced, it met severe rejections from Israel and the US. Israeli PM Netanyahu appealed for and received US support on the matter when he spoke to US Vice President Kamala Harris. While the US has termed the matter as a concern of Israeli security, Netanyahu has simply labelled the probe as 'anti-Semitic while relying on the time-honoured tactic of 'whataboutism' by seeking to draw attention to war crimes in Iran, Syria, etc. Regardless of opposition, the ICC has emphasised that it is only now carrying out this investigation after nearly five years of preliminary investigations into the facts of the matter. And the facts of the case seem to heavily implicate both the Israeli Defense Forces and armed Palestinian groups like Hamza. For Israel in particular, this is problematic because the investigation could end up implicating not only the soldiers of Israel but also many politicians. Benny Gantz, Israeli Defense Minister and leader of the Blue and White party is one of the individuals under threat from this investigation. Gantz was military chief of staff in 2014. Reports say that hundreds of others like Gantz are being briefed by Israel regarding the implications of the investigation. As such, they may be asked to refrain from travelling outside the country while the investigation is underway as they may risk arrest aborad. This is precisely the scenario that Israel was looking to avoid in the aftermath of the 2014 war. Aware of the risks of being held responsible by an ICC investigation, Israel had launched its own 'investigations' into the possibility of war crimes in order to assuage the international community and head-off any possible investigation by the ICC itself. To be clear, Israel is not a signatory to the ICC and in fact, has always rejected its jurisdiction. Its ally, the US likewise does not recognise the jurisdiction of the court and has famously imposed sanctions on the officials of ICC in the Trump era in response to the court announcing that it was investigating possible war crimes by American troops in Afghanistan. Much like Israel, the US also currently does not recognise Palestine as its own nation and as such does not believe Palestine should be able to join a body like the ICC. All said and done, it's not like the ICC ruling will change much for those implicated in an immediate sense. Israel will likely refuse to accept any judgment passed by the court and shield its military personnel as it has already indicated. The only effect would be an international embarrassment for Israel and the possibility that the military personnel identified by the court would have to be careful about where they are travelling abroad.