A bipartisan group of Congressional members sent separate letters Wednesday to U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, calling for the Trump administration to defend Israel, its top ally in the Middle East, against investigations by the International Criminal Court.
In a letter sent to Secretary Pompeo on Wednesday, the bipartisan group of members of Congress urged the Trump administration to “marshal a diplomatic initiative with like-minded countries who are members of the ICC to call on the ICC to cease its politically motivated investigations into the United States and Israel.”
The Senate letter was led by Sens. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) and Rob Portman (R-Ohio). It included 69 signatures. “The ICC has no jurisdiction over disputed territories and their claim creates a dangerous precedent that undermines the purposes for which the court was founded,” Senators Cardin and Portman said in the bipartisan statement. “This effort is discriminatory against Israel and will serve to make a lasting solution, based on direct negotiations between the two parties, more difficult to achieve.”
“In instances when war crimes are committed, we believe our nation and Israel are both able and willing to carry out investigations and prosecute offenders without ICC involvement,” The BiPartisan Letter States.
In the House, Reps. Elaine Luria (D-Va.) and Mike Gallagher (R-Wisc.) spearheaded the letter, which contained over 260 signatures, including House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R- La.), and Rep. Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.), who serves as Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.
“In instances when war crimes are committed, we believe our nation and Israel are both able and willing to carry out investigations and prosecute offenders without ICC involvement,” the bipartisan group of Representatives wrote, adding that, “the ultimate sustainable solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict lies in the resumption of Israeli-Palestinian direct negotiations in pursuit of a two-state solution—not in the pursuit of cases at the ICC. These cases distract from and undermine our efforts to get the parties back to the table.”
They also told the Secretary of State that “the ICC does not enjoy legitimate jurisdiction in these cases.”
The letters were sent to Pompeo upon his return to the U.S. from a brief six-hour trip to Israel on Wednesday, where he met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his former political rival Benny Gantz, who will take on the role of Defense Minister and Deputy Prime Minister when the government is sworn in Thursday.
On May 8, the ICC tweeted out a statement attributed to its Chief Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda, saying that “misinformation and smear campaigns” will not stop the investigation into alleged Israeli war crimes. “Fact: my Office is executing its mandate concerning Palestine situation with utmost professionalism, independence & objectivity in strict conformity with the Rome Statute. Any insinuation or assertion to the contrary is simply misled & unfounded,” Bensouda’s statement read.
Many members of Congress believe the ICC is biased against the U.S. and Israel. “The Court’s recent announcements are examples of how politics have been infused into the judicial process and distorted the purposes for which the court was established,” they wrote.
The bipartisan group of U.S. lawmakers believe that the ICC’s pursuit of charges against Israel is part of a larger effort by pro-Palestinian factions to undermine American efforts to cement a peace deal between the two sides.
“With respect to the possible case against Israel, we are concerned that those pressing for action seek a court judgment in place of a negotiation process between Israelis and Palestinians,” House lawmakers wrote in their letter to Secretary Pompeo. “The ultimate sustainable solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict lies in the resumption of Israeli-Palestinian direct negotiations in pursuit of a two-state solution—not in the pursuit of cases at the ICC. These cases distract from and undermine our efforts to get the parties back to the table.”
The Washington Free Beacon reported on May 5 that the ICC’s cases are being fueled by nonprofit organizations that have known ties to designated terror groups.
A report from the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs (JCPA), an Israel-based research group led by a former adviser to Prime Minister Netanyahu, found that under the leadership of Chief Prosecutor Bensouda, the ICC collaborated with terror-linked groups in order to pursue charges against American and Israeli military officials the court claims are “guilty of committing war crimes against civilians,” in Afghan and Palestinian territories.
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