Netanyahu and Pompeo. Photo: Kobi Gideon/GPO via Getty Images
The Trump administration and Israel coordinated the U.S. authorization of sanctions against the International Criminal Court announced Thursday during Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s short visit to Jerusalem last month, Israeli officials tell me.
Why it matters: The prosecutor of the ICC had decided to open an investigation against Israel for alleged war crimes in the West Bank and Gaza pending a review by the court's judges. The judges will make a decision soon, and Israel is seeking to use U.S. sanctions to pressure them into shutting down the investigation.
Behind the scenes: Israeli officials tell me the plan to sanction the ICC was one of the main reasons for Pompeo’s trip to Israel. The discussion was kept to low profile by both sides and wasn’t mentioned during the many briefings before and after the visit.
- Israeli officials said Netanyahu brought to the meeting Yuval Steinitz, the minister who led the Israeli team that has worked on countering the ICC investigation.
- During the meeting, Netanyahu and Steinitz urged Pompeo to move forward with sanctions against ICC officials.
- In the weeks since the visit, the U.S. and Israel had continued their coordination on the issue. Israel was notified in advance of the content and timing of the U.S. sanctions, officials tell me.
The big picture: The U.S. move against the ICC was primarily a response to the court's investigation of alleged U.S. war crimes in Afghanistan, but both the White House and Pompeo stressed in their statements today that the ICC’s “political persecution” of Israel was a contributing factor.