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Israeli government: International Criminal Court threat 'potentially very significant'

A senior legal official at Israel's Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) has warned that "the challenge of the International Criminal Court", should the Palestinians join, "is potentially a very significant one". Speaking yesterday at the annual meeting of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, MFA deputy legal advisor Tal Becker described the threat of the ICC as "a specific delegimitisation challenge that concerns us a great deal".

Following the recognition of Palestine as a non-member observer state in the United Nations, the Palestinians are able to ratify the Rome Statute of the ICC, a step being urged by the likes of Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch.

The MFA official admitted that while the threat posed by Palestinian membership of the ICC is "hard to measure", it would be "potentially far-reaching", and is thus "a danger we are looking at very seriously". Becker claimed that the "risk of a criminal process" would "fundamentally alter" Israeli-Palestinian relations, and "suck the air" out of the peace process.

As an "attempt to put Israel in the chair of the accused", Becker predicted that such a development would be a boost to the "BDS campaign". The MFA, Justice Ministry and other elements within the government are apparently addressing the issue, given the "experience of how international institutions are used against Israel".

Meanwhile, The Jerusalem Post has described an apparently imminent change in IDF policy with regards to night arrests of Palestinians as motivated by the need to prepare for any "future ICC proceeding". The paper reports that "massive legal efforts by a relatively new division of the Justice Ministry" have – for now – helped "put a brake on the actualization of [Palestinian] threats [to request war crimes investigations by the ICC]".

Becker spoke on a panel alongside Yossi Kuperwasser, Director General in the Ministry of Strategic Affairs, and retired IDF brigadier general Michael Herzog. Kuperwasser recently presented a proposal to Israeli ministers for fighting boycott and divestment initiatives.

Yesterday Kuperwasser claimed Israel is "under attack from a group of organisations who want to question our legitimacy". To fight back, he said, "we formed a group called Global Coalition for Israel", a "loose structure to better synthesize and coordinate our efforts". Herzog described BDS as "a global phenomenon" where "potentially every citizen is a soldier in this war".

Becker also addressed broader questions of Israeli PR relations (hasbara) and efforts to fight BDS, including the dilemma of how much to describe the campaign as a "great threat" in public, as opposed to purely "in internal conversations".

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.

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