Last spring, the International Criminal Court (ICC) determined that it has jurisdiction over Israel’s actions in the Gaza Strip, the West Bank, and part of Jerusalem, although Israel is not a party to the Rome Statue that created the court, and although the “state of Palestine,” which has brought the underlying complaint, does not exist. Another ICC report calls for a full investigation of the Jewish state. Nicholas Rostow explains why nothing good will come from these cases, or from the court’s inevitable decision to involve itself further in the prosecution of Israeli leaders and soldiers:
Palestinian statehood and territory are among the most important, undecided questions to be determined by agreement between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. If the ICC concludes that it has jurisdiction over Israeli actions, then the court would find itself embroiled in one of today’s longest running and most difficult conflicts. The consequences are not foreseeable, except to say that they will be serious and severe.
If the ICC takes up the question of whether aggression has occurred, it will be looking at high-level government decisions, not simply troops engaged in combat (although getting to the bottom of what exactly happens in battle is no easy task). It also will be making a determination of where Israel’s boundaries lie.
And unlike the U.S., which may also face a spurious ICC investigation, Israel cannot impose severe costs on those who would prosecute its citizens. Moreover, writes Rostow, the underlying premise of the investigation is even more wrongheaded:
In the nearly twenty years of its existence, the ICC has not persuaded the world’s most powerful states to join the Rome Statute. Their position has little to do with their view of accountability or ending cultures of “impunity,” a favorite term in UN circles. Their concern has to do with the inescapable political character of decisions about jurisdiction and a desire to protect themselves from unwanted intrusions into their national affairs.
We must anticipate that the ICC will decide to exercise jurisdiction over actions by Israel and the United States as requested by the Palestinians and the Afghan government, respectively. It is unlikely that Americans will suffer as a result. It is entirely likely, however, that Israel, already subject to constant questioning of its legitimacy as a state, will face even greater difficulty than it does presently to reach peace with the Palestinian Authority. The ICC cannot contribute to the achievement of that goal.