Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday threatened a strong response to the Palestinian application to join the International Criminal Court, saying the move represented the opening salvo of a further confrontation with Israel.
Speaking to his cabinet hours after Jerusalem announced financial sanctions in response to the Palestinian move, Netanyahu vowed Israel would take action and that the country would not sit back and allow IDF soldiers to be prosecuted abroad.
“The Palestinian Authority has chosen confrontation with Israel and we will not sit idly by,” Netanyahu said at his office in Jerusalem. “We will not allow IDF soldiers and commanders to be hauled before the International Criminal Court in the Hague.”
Netanyahu said Palestinians leaders were the ones who should be prosecuted in the ICC over their unification with rival faction Hamas.
“It is the Palestinian Authority leaders – who have allied with the war criminals of Hamas – who must be called to account,” he said. “IDF soldiers will continue to protect the State of Israel with determination and strength, and just as they are protecting us we will protect them, with the same determination and strength.” Abbas’s Fatah and Hamas are backers of the current Palestinian unity government. Hamas, the terror group that controls Gaza, calls for the destruction of Israel.
On Saturday Israel froze NIS 500 million ($127 million) in Palestinian tax revenues collected on Ramallah’s behalf, in response to the ICC membership request.
The frozen funds are Palestinian taxes collected by Israel which were intended to be transferred to the PA’s coffers on Friday. Israel has threatened retaliation against the Palestinians should they move to join the court, and Washington condemned the Palestinian move as a hindrance to efforts at reaching an Israeli-Palestinian peace accord.
The PA submitted documents to the United Nations on Friday to join the International Criminal Court after Abbas signed the Rome Statute and 19 other international treaties on Wednesday.
On Thursday, Abbas asked the International Criminal Court to investigate Israel for war crimes allegedly committed during the 50-day war with Hamas and other Gaza terror groups last summer.
In initiating a war crimes probe against Israel with the International Criminal Court, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas may fall afoul of US legislation that would mandate defunding the PA. The US funds the PA to the tune of some $400 million per year.
An unidentified Palestinian source claimed that Abbas signed a request Thursday asking the ICC to investigate war crimes allegedly “committed in Palestine” since the summer. This action may tip the scales in Washington, where there is already bipartisan frustration with Abbas’s decision to put a Palestinian statehood resolution before the United Nations Security Council on Tuesday, and, after the resolution was defeated, to sign on to the ICC on Wednesday.
Even if Abbas’s ICC investigation gambit does not play out — and Palestine’s route ahead at the ICC is strewn with legal obstacles — it is viewed by many leaders of the incoming Republican-controlled Congress as the latest justification to reexamine the PA’s American funding.
Aaron David Miller, a former presidential advisor and a distinguished scholar at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, believes that PA funding will be increasingly at risk in the Republican-controlled Congress that will be sworn in later this month.
“I think the odds of defunding are higher than they ever were before,” he told The Times of Israel. “A whole new reality has now been created and I suspect that they are going to close any loopholes that may exist regarding the funding. The world in Washington is about to change.”
The stop-gap funding bill passed by Congress and signed by President Barack Obama last month contains language that stipulates that no State Department economic support funding may be given to the PA if “the Palestinians initiate an International Criminal Court judicially authorized investigation, or actively support such an investigation, that subjects Israeli nationals to an investigation for alleged crimes against Palestinians.”
At least one congressional office – that of Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) – understands the text to refer to the initial submission by the PA.
Ros-Lehtinen responded to Abbas’s ICC membership bid by calling on the Obama administration “to show Abu Mazen (Abbas) and the PA that there will be consequences for their irresponsible behavior and continued efforts to undermine the peace process.”
“Congress must do everything in its power to block funds to the PA and to any UN entity that recognizes a non-existent State of Palestine to make it clear to Abu Mazen that there will be consequences to his schemes at the United Nations and other international organizations like the International Criminal Court,” she declared.
Security forces arrested a group of three men in the West Bank city of Hebron believed to be associated with the Islamic State terrorist group.
The cell was arrested in November 2014 by Shin Bet operatives and stands accused of launching an unsuccessful attack against IDF soldiers and conspiring to kidnap and murder civilians and military personnel in the West Bank, according to a press release disseminated Monday by the security apparatus.
News of the arrests of the three men, Muhammad Zerrue, 21, Ahmad Shehadeh, 22, and Qusai Meswadeh, 23, were previously confidential.
Investigators claims that Shehadeh intended to establish a militarized wing of the Islamic State group.
Shehadeh and Maswadeh will be tried in a military court in the West Bank in the coming days.
Islamic State militants are attempting to infiltrate Lebanon from Syria, Beirut's security chief has warned. Forces have been put on high alert to prevent the civil war in Syria spilling across the border.
Incursions are taking place in Qalamoun Mountains, which marks Lebanon's eastern border with Syria, where Islamic State (also known as ISIS, or ISIL) militants are trying to take over Lebanese villages to ga
in better fighting positions, Major General Abbas Ibrahim, head of Lebanon's Directorate of General Security (DGS), told Reuters.
“Islamic State does not want to dominate Qalamoun... but they want to use it to secure their backs in the region through controlling [Lebanese] villages in contact with the Qalamoun area,” Ibrahim said, adding that the number of militants in the Qalamoun region is increasing.
Since February 2011, when the fighting in Syria began, incidents on the Lebanon-Syria border have increased. In 2014 militants organized several high-scale attacks on Lebanese territory, such as the assault on the border city of Arsal, when Lebanese soldiers were held captive, and clashes of IS-associated militants with Lebanese law enforcement agencies in Tripoli, the country’s second-largest city, located 30 kilometers south of the Syrian border.
Ibrahim said that Lebanese security agencies have carried out a number of successful, previously unreported, operations against Islamist networks in the country.
In October, RT reported that Lebanese Christians were arming themselves to defend their land and families from the extremists.
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