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Behind Closed Doors: How Israel Allegedly Manipulated International Justice

Daniel Kim Views  

AP Yonhap News

Reports have emerged that the former director of Israel’s foreign intelligence service, Mossad, threatened an International Criminal Court (ICC) prosecutor who was investigating allegations of Israeli war crimes in Palestine.

The Guardian reported on the 28th (local time), citing informed sources, that former Mossad director Yossi Cohen, who led the agency from 2016 to 2021, was found to have exerted pressure on then-ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda.

Bensouda, a Muslim from Gambia, decided in 2015 to initiate a preliminary investigation into allegations of war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in the Gaza Strip, the West Bank, and East Jerusalem. Israel opposed this move, and Cohen, who became the director of Mossad the following year as a close associate of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, tried to persuade Bensouda to drop the investigation.

According to sources, Cohen first introduced himself to Bensouda during a brief conversation at the Munich Security Conference 2017. Bensouda then unexpectedly encountered Cohen again at a hotel in Manhattan in 2018, while meeting with then Democratic Republic of the Congo President Joseph Kabila. Suddenly, all ICC officials except Bensouda were asked to leave the room, and Cohen walked in. This was done with high-level approval under the pretext of preventing the ICC from prosecuting Israeli soldiers, and Cohen acted as Netanyahu’s unofficial messenger, according to sources.

Initially, Cohen reportedly focused on winning Bensouda over as a pro-Israel figure. However, by the end of 2019, Bensouda announced that she had secured grounds to launch a full investigation into allegations of Israeli war crimes. According to the source, Cohen subsequently met with Bensouda at least three times until he stepped down as Mossad chief in 2021, and increasingly began using a variety of tactics, including threats and manipulation. It was reported that there were attempts to discredit Bensouda by showing her secretly taken photos of her husband and circulating a recording of a problematic statement he made to diplomats. One person briefed on these activities described Cohen’s behavior as “despicable tactics” and likened it to stalking, according to The Guardian.

Israel has categorically denied these reports. A spokesperson for the Israeli Prime Minister’s Office said in response to related inquiries, “The questions that have been forwarded to us are full of many false and baseless suspicions aimed at damaging Israel.” Both former director Cohen and former prosecutor Bensouda declined to comment, The Guardian added.

In 2021, the ICC ruled that its judicial jurisdiction extends to Palestinian territories, including the West Bank. Shortly after, Bensouda announced the official start of an investigation into war crimes committed within Palestinian territories and stepped down three months later when her term expired.

Current ICC prosecutor Karim Khan, who intensified the investigation following the outbreak of war between Palestinian militant group Hamas and Israel in October last year, requested arrest warrants on the 20th of this month for Prime Minister Netanyahu and Hamas leaders on charges of war crimes.

Daniel Kim
content@viewusglobal.com

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