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Prime Minister of Israel Benjamin Netanyahu. Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images.

Israel intends to ask dozens of allies to convey a "discreet message" to Fatou Bensouda, the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC), tomorrow and urge her to not move forward with an investigation against Israel on alleged war crimes in the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem, two Israeli officials tell Axios.

Why it matters: Israel is very concerned any investigation could lead to international arrest warrants against Israel officials and military officers. The Israelis are also concerned such an investigation will boost BDS campaigns against Israel.



Driving the news: The Israeli foreign ministry sent a classified cable to dozens of Israeli ambassadors around the world on Sunday with instructions to start a lobbying effort around Friday's ruling from ICC judges, which cleared the way for an investigation against Israel.

  • The Israeli officials said the cable was designated as “Urgent” and included an instruction that ambassadors should come to the office on Sunday in order to read the classified cable and start reaching out to the governments of the countries they are posted in.
  • In the cable, the Israeli ambassadors were instructed to ask foreign ministers and heads of government in the countries thy are posted in to issue public statements of opposition to the judges decision. So far only the U.S. and Australia issued such statements.

What they are saying: "The U.S. objects to the ICC decision regarding the Palestinian situation. Israel is not a State Party to the Rome Statute. We will continue to uphold President Biden’s strong commitment to Israel and its security, including opposing actions that seek to target Israel unfairly”, State Department spokesman Ned Price said on Friday.

  • The cable included another sensitive instruction to encourage governments to put political pressure on the ICC prosecutor. “We ask that (governments) send a discreet message to the prosecutor asking her not to move forward with the investigation against Israeli and not give this case a high priority”, the cable reads.
  • “You are instructed to tell the highest levels of government that if an investigation against Israel starts it will create a continuous crisis between Israel and the Palestinian Authority that will not allow any diplomatic progress to take place between the parties”, the cable read.

What’s next: The ambassadors were asked to tell friendly countries that Israel wants to open special channels of dialogue that will focus on the ICC issue.
Prime Minister Netanyahu is expected to send letters to dozens of leaders around the world asking for their support in countering any investigation. Netanyahu and Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi are expected to make phone call to several of their counterpart in main world powers and allies to discuss the issue.

Flashback: Bensouda announced the potential investigation into Israel and Hamas over alleged war crimes during the 2014 war in Gaza, as well as the construction of West Bank settlements by Israel, in December 2019, and Israel and the Trump administration immediately began attempting to mobilize opposition to try to convince the judges to block it.

Go deeper

Updated 6 hours ago - World

UK government: Kremlin has plan "to install pro-Russian leadership" in Ukraine

British Foreign Secretary Elizabeth Truss. Photo: Gints Ivuskans / AFP via Getty Images

The United Kingdom's Foreign Secretary on Saturday night said the government has "information that indicates the Russian Government is looking to install a pro-Russian leader in Kyiv as it considers whether to invade and occupy Ukraine."

Driving the news: U.S. National Security Council spokeswoman Emily Horne called the intelligence "deeply concerning" in a statement to Axios. The Biden administration has said Russia is actively manufacturing a pretext for invasion and warned that Putin could use joint military exercises in Belarus as cover to invade from the north.

Updated 7 hours ago - Science

This powerful new accelerator looks for keys to the center of atoms

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

Nuclear physicists trying to piece together how atoms are built are about to get a powerful new tool.

Why it matters: When the Facility for Rare Isotope Beams begins experiments later this spring, physicists from around the world will use the particle accelerator to better understand the inner workings of atoms that make up all the matter that can be seen in the universe.

Updated 7 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Omicron dashboard

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

  1. Health: FDA OKs antiviral drug remdesivir for non-hospitalized COVID patients — Walensky: CDC language "pivoting" on "fully vaccinated" — Pfizer and Moderna boosters overwhelmingly prevent Omicron hospitalizations, CDC finds.
  2. Vaccines: The case for Operation Warp Speed 2.0 — Teens and adults missed 37 million vaccinations during COVID — Team USA 100% vaccinated against COVID ahead of Beijing Olympics — Kids' COVID vaccination rates are particularly low in rural America — Annual COVID vaccine preferable to boosters, says Pfizer CEO.
  3. Politics: Arizona governor sues Biden administration over COVID funds tied to mandates — Biden concedes U.S. should have done more testing — Arizona says it "will not be intimidated" by Biden on anti-mask school policies.
  4. World: American Airlines flight to London forced to turn around over mask dispute — WHO: COVID health emergency could end this year — Greece imposes vaccine mandate for people 60 and older — Austria approves COVID vaccine mandate for adults — Beijing officials urge COVID-19 "emergency mode" before Winter Olympics.
  5. Variant tracker