(JTA) – Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu condemned the International Criminal Court (ICC)’s request to reopen a probe into Israel’s 2010 raid on a Turkish ship attempting to breach the blockade of the Gaza Strip.
In a statement issued shortly after the request Thursday, Netanyahu said that the court’s renewed focus on the Mavi Marmara raid, in which Israeli forces killed nine Turkish activists during clashes, was “motivated by cynical politics.”
The case against Israel at the ICC was first filed in May 2013 by the Union of Comoros, a tiny Indian Ocean island state, where the Mavi Marmara was registered.
In January, Comoros asked ICC judges to review ICC Chief Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda’s decision in November not to pursue any charges against Israel. A panel of three ICC judges on Thursday requested on Thursday that the prosecution review that decision, citing “material errors” in Bensouda’s “determination of the gravity of the potential case,” the French news agency AFP reported.
Netanyahu said the Israeli navy commandos involved acted in self-defence on a mission to maintain what Israel says is a legal naval blockade. Israel’s soldiers, he added, would “continue to keep Israel safe,” and Israel would “continue to protect them in the international arena.”
During the raid, dozens of activists used metal rods and clubs against commandos who boarded the vessel toting crowd-dispersal tools. According to an internal Israel Defense Forces probe, the troops opened fire from sidearms after one soldier was stabbed and taken hostage by activists holed up in the vessel’s hull.
“At a time when [Bashar] Assad in Syria is slaughtering tens of thousands of his own people, when Iran is executing hundreds and Hamas in Gaza is using children as human shields, the court chooses to deal with Israel for cynical political reasons,” Netanyahu said.
“Against this hypocrisy our soldiers will continue to protect us in the field, and we will defend them in the international arena,” he said.
The panel of judges said in their request that Bensouda did not take into account events that occurred outside of the court’s jurisdiction, notably the treatment of prisoners once they arrived in Israel, when determining the gravity of the case.
The judges requested Bensouda “reconsider her decision not to investigate, if it concludes that the validity of the decision is materially affected by an error, whether it is an error of procedure, an error of law, or an error of fact.”
One of the judges, Peter Kovacs, dissented on the request.