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Israel admits to ‘influencing’ International Criminal Court ahead of war crimes probe

ISRAEL has admitted that it is trying to “influence” the International Criminal Court (ICC) and says it will protect its forces against war crimes charges that may be brought following investigations.

Defence chief Benny Gantz said on Tuesday that February’s decision by the ICC that it had jurisdiction to investigate alleged crimes committed by Israel in the occupied Palestinian territories since 1967 had been “a negative development.”

“We have our own teams working in different places to try and influence the ICC,” Mr Gantz, who himself could face charges, said.

Tel Aviv mounted a major campaign to try to block the ICC from ruling in favour of opening formal investigations, insisting that it was not a member of the international body. 

But the ICC said its decision last month was based on the fact that Palestine has been granted membership to the tribunal’s founding treaty and had referred the situation to the court.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu branded the ICC ruling anti-semitic and the US State Department’s Ned Price reiterated the administration of president Joe Biden’s objections to investigations.

Mr Gantz, who was the Israeli military chief of staff during the 2014 assault on Gaza in which 2,251 Palestinians were killed, faces arrest.

In 2015 investigators from the United Nations human rights council warned that possible war crimes had been committed “by both sides” during the conflict.

When asked how many could be detained and charged, Mr Gantz said: “I guess several hundred, but we will take care of everybody.” 

He added that Israel would provide legal assistance to any of its citizens implicated and give them legal warnings regarding travel.

The defence chief has played a key role in attempts to crush resistance to the Israeli occupation. 

Last weekend he designated the Samidoun Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network a terrorist organisation linked to the Marxist-Leninist Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), and on Monday PFLP parliamentarian Khalida Jarrar was jailed for two years. She had played a leading role in bringing the ICC case against Israel.

Israel goes to the polls again on March 23 for the fourth time in just two years.

Mr Netanyahu is embroiled in a major corruption scandal that has prompted weekly protests demanding his resignation.

Critics have said the hard-line stance adopted by Mr Gantz, who heads the Blue and White party, is made with one eye on this month’s poll.

The PFLP has confirmed that it will stand in May’s elections in Palestine, the first held there since 2006, though the party said that its participation “does not mean that it is a partner in the consecration of the humiliating and disastrous Oslo Accords.”

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