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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.

Go deeper: International Criminal Court moves closer to investigation of Israel

Go deeper

Sep 16, 2020 - World

UAE-Israel treaty states commitment to meeting the needs of Israelis and Palestinians

U.S. President Donald Trump (2nd R), Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (2nd L), UAE Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan (R) and Bahrain Foreign Minister Abdullatif bin Rashid Al Zayani (L) attend a signing ceremony for the agreements on "normalization of relations" reached between Israel, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Bahrain at the White House in Washington, United States on September 15, 2020. Photo:
Anadolu Agency / Getty Images

The peace treaty between Israel and the United Arab Emirates states that both countries are committed to "working together for a negotiated solution for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that will meet the aspirations and needs of both parties."

Why it matters: The Emiratis face criticism from the Palestinians over their peace treaty with Israel. Officials involved in the negotiations on the text of the treaty told me the Emiratis wanted to include language on Palestinians in the document. The Emiratis wanted stronger language, but Israel did not agree.

Sep 15, 2020 - World

Kushner expects more countries to normalize with Israel before Palestinian deal

White House senior adviser Jared Kushner told CNN on Tuesday that he expects more Arab countries to follow the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain in normalizing relations with Israel before Palestinian leadership agrees to a peace deal.

Why it matters: After hosting a White House signing ceremony on Tuesday that formalized diplomatic ties between Israel, the UAE and Bahrain, President Trump told reporters that he expects seven to nine more countries — including possibly Saudi Arabia — to agree to a similar move.

Updated Sep 15, 2020 - World

Israel signs normalization deals with UAE and Bahrain at White House ceremony

President Trump presided over U.S.-brokered normalization agreements between Israel and Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates at the White House on Tuesday, cementing formal diplomatic ties between the countries through deals with few public details.

Why it matters: "The last Arab state to make peace with Israel was Jordan, in 1994. Egypt was the first, in 1979. The agreement is also significant for relegating the Palestinians to the sidelines," WashPost reports.

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