Weekly News Summary: December 22-27

News Summary

International Criminal Court opens investigation into Israel, Hamas:
The International Criminal Court decided this week to open an investigation into Israel, Hamas, and other terrorist groups in Gaza. The investigation will focus on war crimes. Against Israel, the accusations are in regards to the 2014 Operation Protective Edge in Gaza, for expanding settlements, and for the recent use of lethal force against protesters at the Gazan border. Against Hamas and other Gazan groups, the accusations focus on terrorist activities over the last several years including targeting civilians and using civilians as human shields.

ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda announced the decision. The worst-case scenario for Israel is that IDF Officers, Knesset Members including the Prime Minister, and anyone else deemed interesting enough in the investigation by the ICC could be arrested in connection with the case. They could be arrested simply to be forced to appear for an interview, not only in connection with a guilty verdict. 123 countries are members of the ICC, and in theory are required to execute ICC warrants, although in practice many abstain from doing so.

Immediately following the announcement, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Defense Minister Naftali Bennet, and others condemned the decision. Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit published a 34-page opinion piece claiming that the ICC lacks jurisdiction to investigate Israel. 

The next step for the prosecution is to determine whether the ICC has jurisdiction in Israel and Gaza, or not. The ICC has to determine if Israel’s internal legal proceedings are enough to warrant ICC intervention unnecessary. The ICC only has jurisdiction in cases where crimes are not prosecuted locally. The court has 120 days to determine this. If they decide to investigate Israel, it could still be years before any charges are submitted. However, during that time the arrest warrants could commence, which would be embarrassing and problematic for Israel.

Netanyahu easily beats Gideon Sa’ar in Likud Primary:
Netanyahu secured a resounding victory in the Likud Leadership Election on Thursday. He received over 72% of the votes, while Gideon Sa’ar received just 27.5%. Sa’ar was hoping to achieve 30% and thereby prove that he had at least a large minority of support within Likud. However, according to Times of Israel, the impressive victory by Netanyahu helps him solidify his control of Likud and is an important show of strength and unity heading into the general election.

Israel takes steps to prevent PA from paying terrorists:
Defense Minister Naftali Bennet ordered a freeze on Wednesday on salaries paid by PA to families of convicted terrorists. Israel will start withholding tax revenue that it collects on behalf of the PA, at a level equal to the payments made to terrorist families. The measure will not necessarily end the PA policy, which could simply cover the cost of the payments by withholding spending in other areas.

Netanyahu releases plans for 3,000 new settler homes:
On Tuesday, two days before the Likud leadership election, Netanyahu announced plans for 3,000 new homes in Judea and Samaria. The proposal will be voted on in two weeks by the Higher Planning Committee.

Happy Hanukkah from space:
Jessica Meir, a Jewish astronaut with NASA whose father is from Israel, wished a Happy Hanukkah on twitter with a tweet of a photo she took looking down towards earth from space. The photo shows her feet dangling thousands of miles above the earth, and her feet are donned with a pair of Hanukkah socks.