US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo welcomed Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s new government on Sunday, mere days after warning the International Criminal Court (ICC) against investigating Israel for alleged war crimes in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.
“We are extremely fortunate to have such strong and experienced partners in Jerusalem, and we will work together to advance the security and prosperity of our peoples,” tweeted Pompeo.
His warm remarks toward the new Israeli government stood in sharp contrast to his stern rebuke of the ICC on Friday, when he threatened to “exact consequences” should it move forward with investigating Israel.
“As we made clear when the Palestinians purported to join the Rome Statute, we do not believe the Palestinians qualify as a sovereign state, and they therefore are not qualified to obtain full membership, or participate as a state in international organizations, entities or conferences, including the ICC,” Pompeo said in a statement.
Why it matters: The Palestinian Authority joined the ICC in 2015, though Israel is not a member. After a years-long preliminary investigation, ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda determined in December that “there is reasonable basis to proceed with an investigation into the situation in Palestine.” She released the 60-page legal basis for the investigation last month.
Netanyahu took to the world’s largest Christian broadcasting network in January to urge “concrete actions, sanctions against the international court — its officials, its prosecutors, everyone.” Pompeo has threatened to employ similar tactics for any ICC officials investigating alleged American war crimes in Afghanistan.
What’s next: Officially, Netanyahu hopes to annex Israeli settlements in the West Bank as well as the entire Jordan Valley as soon as July under the auspices of President Donald Trump’s peace plan. But neither Netanyahu nor Pompeo publicly mentioned it during the secretary’s visit to Israel last week, raising questions about whether the Trump administration is fully on board with July as the annexation date.
Know more: Mazal Mualem brings you up to speed on the new Israeli government and its push to rapidly annex much of the West Bank. And Ben Caspit details Pompeo’s efforts to deepen ties with Israeli Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi. Finally, Bryant Harris reports on the American Israel Public Affairs Committee’s efforts to get the majority of Congress to push back on an ICC investigation.