Members of the U.S. House of Representatives and U.S. Senate sent similar letters on Wednesday to U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, calling on him to combat the International Criminal Court’s alleged anti-Israel bias.
Out of the 100 members of the Senate, its letter was signed by 69 of them, 43 Republicans and 26 Democrats, while the House version was signed by 262 members—approximately 93 Democrats and 169 Republicans—roughly 60 percent of the lower chamber.
The letters come in the wake of ICC chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda announcing in December that, at the request of the Palestinian Authority, she has opened an investigation into alleged war crimes committed by Israel in the 2014 Gaza war (the Israel Defense Forces’ “Operation Protective Edge”), in addition to alleged crimes in the West Bank’s disputed territories.
“By accepting Palestinian territorial claims over the West Bank, East[ern] Jerusalem and Gaza, the Prosecutor is making a political judgment that biases any subsequent investigation or trial,” states the Senate letter. “Establishing the boundaries of any future Palestinian state is a political decision that must be determined through negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians. Any ICC determination regarding its jurisdiction over the disputed territories or investigation of Israel would further hinder the path to peace.”
“Moreover,” continued the senators, “politicizing the Court in this way could further weaken and undermine the ICC.”
The House letter echoed the sentiment in the Senate version, stating that the “ICC does not enjoy legitimate jurisdiction in these cases” over the Mideast conflict, citing that, like the United States, Israel is not a member of The Hague court.
“With respect to the possible case against Israel, we are concerned that those pressing for action seek a court judgment in place of a negotiation process between Israelis and Palestinians,” stated the House members. “The ultimate sustainable solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict lies in the resumption of Israeli-Palestinian direct negotiations in pursuit of a two-state solution—not in the pursuit of cases at the ICC. These cases distract from and undermine our efforts to get the parties back to the table.”
The House version called on Pompeo to “marshal a diplomatic initiative with like-minded countries who are members of the ICC, to call on the ICC to cease its politically motivated investigations into the United States and Israel. We look forward to working together to ensure the safety of Americans and Israelis while also encouraging accountability and justice.”
Meanwhile, the Senate letter stated that “the United States should stand in full force against any biased investigation of Israel” and called on Pompeo to “give this matter your full attention and offer the State Department’s support for Israel.”
Following Bensouda’s announcement, Pompeo slammed the decision.
“We firmly oppose this and any other action that seeks to target Israel unfairly,” he said. “We do not believe the Palestinians qualify as a sovereign state, and they therefore are not qualified to obtain full membership, or participate as a state in international organizations, entities, or conferences, including the ICC.”
In a statement applauding the letters, AIPAC said, “Israel’s enemies have long extended their war against the Jewish state beyond military and terrorist attacks to the diplomatic and economic arenas. These efforts are intended to weaken, isolate and delegitimize Israel.
“Today, Israel’s detractors are trying to utilize one of the newest international institutions, the ICC, to vilify both Israel and the United States. The ICC is now considering an unjust, politicized case against Israel while ignoring cases that actually warrant its attention. The Court has also taken up a case accusing the United States of engaging in war crimes in Afghanistan.”