The U.S. Department of State strongly disagrees with the International Criminal Court’s (ICC) decision to open an initial probe into the possible war crimes committed against Palestinians by Israel during the Gaza conflict that began on June 13, 2014. In a statement released Friday, the U.S. maintains that Palestine is not a state and therefore should not be eligible to join the ICC.
“It is a tragic irony that Israel, which has withstood thousands of terrorist rockets fired at its civilians and its neighborhoods, is now being scrutinized by the ICC,” the statement continued.
The U.S. Department’s response came shortly after the ICC announced they were opening a “preliminary examination into the situation in Palestine.” This is the first step the court takes before deciding if there is reason to pursue an investigation over the “alleged crimes committed” in Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem. In November of 2012, the UN General Assembly granted Palestine “non-member observer state” status, a stepping stone to become eligible to join the ICC. Palestine’s request to join the ICC was accepted on Jan. 7, 2015, when they became the 123rd state party — a step required for the court to begin to look into the possibility of war crimes in Gaza.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu denounced the announcement as “scandalous” and added that it was an attempt to “try and harm Israel’s right to defend itself against terror,” he said in a press conference Friday evening.
“The place to resolve the differences between the parties is through direct negotiations, not unilateral actions by either side,” the U.S. State Department said in the statement. “We will continue to oppose actions against Israel at the ICC as counterproductive to the cause of peace.”
ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda said her office would conduct the examination with “full independence and impartiality” but did not issue a timeline for a decision.