Kamala Harris expresses opposition to ICC investigation into potential Israeli war crimes
US Vice-President Kamala Harris has reaffirmed the United States’ opposition to an International Criminal Court (ICC) inquiry into possible war crimes in the Palestinian territories, following the announcement of an investigation on Wednesday.
In her first call with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu since she took office last January, the Vice President expressed “opposition to the International Criminal Court’s attempts to exercise its jurisdiction over Israeli personnel,” according to a White House statement.
Harris also “emphasised the United States’ unwavering commitment to Israel’s security” and congratulated Netanyahu on Israel’s coronavirus vaccine programme.
Harris and Netanyahu also agreed to increase cooperation on the coronavirus, water, green energy and other initiatives, the statement said.
The chief prosecutor of the ICC, Fatou Bensouda, said on Wednesday that she had opened a formal probe into alleged crimes in the occupied Palestinian territories, a move strongly opposed by Israel. She has promised the inquiry will be conducted “independently, impartially and objectively, without fear or favour”.
The ICC paved the way for an investigation of potential war crimes committed by Israelis, as well as Palestinians, in February, when it ruled that the occupied Palestinian territories fall under its jurisdiction.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken echoed Harris’s sentiment earlier this week, saying that Washington “firmly opposes and is deeply disappointed” by the ICC decision.
“Israel is not a party to the ICC and has not consented to the Court’s jurisdiction, and we have serious concerns about the ICC’s attempts to exercise its jurisdiction over Israeli personnel,” Blinken said in a statement.
During the call on Thursday, Netanyahu also agreed to continue cooperating with the United States on regional security issues, including on what he called Iran’s “dangerous” behaviour regarding its nuclear “ambitions”, according to the White House statement.
Biden’s bid to revive a 2015 nuclear agreement with Iran had set the US and Israel on a potential collision course. Natanyahu has opposed the nuclear deal and had applauded former President Donald Trump’s decision to abandon it in 2018.
ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda has previously said there is a "reasonable basis" to believe crimes were committed by members of the Israeli army, Israeli authorities, Hamas, and other Palestinian armed groups during the 2014 Gaza conflict.