Israeli far-right push ahead with 'immunity bill' for soldiers despite warnings of ICC action

Israeli far-right push ahead with 'immunity bill' for soldiers despite warnings of ICC action
3 min read
20 December, 2022
The Israeli bill will see soldiers who kill Palestinians given immunity from prosecution.
Ben Gvir will likely be given a senior security position in Israel's next government [Getty]

Israeli security officials are warning against a new bill, currently being drawn up by influential far-right figures, which will grant immunity to Israeli soldiers and police during military operations in the occupied Palestinian territories and Gaza.

Unnamed officials speaking to Haaretz warned that a bill making it impossible to prosecute Israeli soldiers under local law would mean the International Criminal Court (ICC) - which Israel is not party to - could be forced to intervene in individual cases.

While no soldier or police officer has been brought before the ICC for war crimes or other injustices, this is largely down to the international community treating Israeli law as independent and giving authorities the opportunity to bring perpetrators to justice, even if they very, very rarely do so.

If no such laws are in place in Israel, then the ICC might intervene to bring perpetrators to justice, security officials have warned.

"The sources told Haaretz that this is due to the efforts of the IDF, the Justice Ministry and Israel’s prime ministers over the past decades," the Israeli newspaper reported.

"But, they warn, this is not an irreversible situation - a law granting immunity may create a situation that could 'change faster than you can imagine', in the words of one."

One example of the principle of "complementary", which the ICC and other states grants Israel, was when legal action was taken against Israel for the killing of 15 Palestinian civilians during the 2002 assassination of Hamas commander Salah Shehadeh in Gaza.

Spanish courts ruled that an Israeli military investigation into the killings had been enacted and so there was no need for outside legal intervention.

With no procedures or efforts in place to investigate alleged war crimes, Israel might find itself in a different position during future killings of Palestinian civilians. This could lead Israeli military personnel sent overseas for training and other missions vulnerable to prosecution in their host country.

There is no knowledge of how the bill might be stated or function, but far-right figures who will likely be part of the next Israeli government are said to be drawing up such a law.

Former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is likely to lead the next Israeli government with the backing of far-right parties. 

Itamar Ben-Gvir and Bezalel Smotrich of Religious Zionism will likely be given leading ministerial positions with power over Palestinians in the occupied West Bank, where Israel's army and police have conducted dozens of raids this year.

Israel has killed at least 224 Palestinians, including 36 children, this year, including teenager Jana Zakarneh as she fetched her cat from her roof this week.

It has killed thousands more civilians in besieged Gaza since a Hamas took power in the Palestinian enclave in 2007.

Pan-Arab broadcaster Al Jazeera has requested the ICC investigate the killing of its reporter, Shireen Abu Akleh, by Israeli soldiers in Jenin earlier this year.