18:02 GMT16 May 2021
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    Last week, Tel Aviv indicated that it would not cooperate with the International Criminal Court’s investigation into the situation in the Israeli-occupied Palestinian territories, saying The Hague had “no authority” to open an investigation against it. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu earlier dismissed the probe as “pure anti-Semitism.”

    British Prime Minister Boris Johnson expressed support for London’s Israeli “ally” on Wednesday, calling the ICC probe into potential war crimes in Gaza, the West Bank, and east Jerusalem a sham and suggesting the court has no legal right to investigate the Jewish State.

    “We oppose the ICC’s investigation into war crimes in Palestine,” Johnson indicated in a letter cited by Conservative Friends of Israel parliamentary group.

    The PM said Britain does “not accept that the ICC has jurisdiction in this instance, given that Israel is not a party to the Statute of Rome and Palestine is not a sovereign state.”

    “This investigation gives the impression of being a partial and prejudicial attack on a friend and ally of the UK’s,” Johnson added.

    The PM went on to suggest that London was a “strong supporter of the ICC,” and that it has been “working with other countries to bring about positive changes at the Court,” including via the election of two UK nationals to roles of judges and prosecutors.

    Johnson’s letter, dated 9 April, was addressed to MP Stephen Crabb, Lord Eric Pickles, and Lord Baron Polak, who wrote Johnson letters in February and March to express “concerns” about the ICC’s ruling to proceed with the war crimes probe.

    The Conservative Friends of Israel met with Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab on Friday to discuss the investigation.

    British attorney Karim Khan is expected to replace ICC chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda in June, with his duties expected to include deciding on how to proceed with the Israel war crimes probe. Israel welcomed Khan’s selection in February.

    Bensouda indicated that she would probe Palestinian allegations about war crimes in Gaza and the West Bank in late 2019. In February 2021, the ICC ruled that it had jurisdiction to formally open a probe into the matter, prompting the Israeli government to accuse the court of “anti-Semitism,” and to discreetly lobby its allies to try to pressure Bensouda not to proceed with the probe.

    Last Wednesday, Bensouda ruled to open a full war crimes probe against Israel and Hamas, the Palestinian political and militant group. The probe is expected to focus on the 2014 Gaza War and possible “intentionally…disproportionate attacks” by Israel, as well as incidents at the Gaza border in March 2018 which killed over 200 people, including 40 children. Israeli settlement policy, and Hamas rocket attacks against Israeli civilians are also expected to be investigated.

    A female protester hurls a stone while others burn tires near the fence of the Gaza Strip border with Israel, during a protest east of Khan Younis, southern Gaza Strip, Friday, Aug. 10, 2018. Violence erupted at the Gaza border Friday after the territory's militant Islamic Hamas rulers and Israel appeared to be honoring a cease-fire that ended two days of intense violence amid efforts by neighboring Egypt to negotiate between the two sides
    © AP Photo / Adel Hana
    A female protester hurls a stone while others burn tires near the fence of the Gaza Strip border with Israel, during a protest east of Khan Younis, southern Gaza Strip, Friday, Aug. 10, 2018. Violence erupted at the Gaza border Friday after the territory's militant Islamic Hamas rulers and Israel appeared to be honoring a cease-fire that ended two days of intense violence amid efforts by neighboring Egypt to negotiate between the two sides

    The Palestinian Authority and Hamas welcomed the probe promising to cooperate with the ICC while condemning Tel Aviv for refusing to do the same. Last week, Israel officially informed The Hague that it does not recognise the ICC’s authority to launch the war crimes probe, saying it “completely” rejects “the claim that Israel commits war crimes.”

    The Biden administration dropped US sanctions and visa restrictions against ICC personnel earlier this month, rolling back Trump-era restrictions issued in September 2020 on ‘national security grounds’ over the court’s investigation of alleged US war crimes in Afghanistan. At the same time, Secretary of State Antony Blinken urged the court to “reform,” and stressed Washington’s “strong” disagreement with “with the ICC’s actions relation to the Afghanistan and Palestinian situations.”

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