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Netanyahu and Cohen May Face Interrogation in The Hague Over Harassment Allegations

Hague prosecutor Karim Khan may seek new arrest warrants against Netanyahu following harassment allegations of former ICC prosecutor.

Harassment Allegations
Harassment Allegations: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the former head of the Mossad, Yossi Cohen / Photo credit Amos Ben Gershom GPO

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and former head of the Mossad Yossi Cohen could be a target of the current court prosecutor, Karim Khan if he decides to seek new arrest warrants against Netanyahu and Cohen for harassing the former International Criminal Court prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda.

In March 2021, the outgoing prosecutor in the International Criminal Court (ICJ), Pato Bensouda, announced the opening of an investigation into war crimes that were allegedly committed by Israel against the Palestinians after June 13, 2014.

Last month, May 2024, ICC prosecutor Karim Kahn officially requested arrest warrants be issued for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Yoav Galant on charges of crimes against humanity allegedly committed in the Gaza war, which started on October 7, 2023. Khan previously said his office had warned Israel to take the humanitarian aid issue seriously, “starvation as a method of war” was against the Rome Statute, he said.

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According to The Guardian, Cohen personally carried out a series of threats and harassment against the former prosecutor Bensuda without trying to hide his identity. In one case, he allegedly set up an “ambush” for the plaintiff when she arrived for a meeting with the former president of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Joseph Kabila, at a hotel in New York.

It was said that Cohen surprised the prosecutor with his presence and used the conversation to convey a threatening message.

According to the report, Cohen’s harassment allegations were based on allegedly telling her, “You should help us and let us take care of you. You don’t want to get into things that could compromise your security or that of your family.”

In other cases, Cohen spoke with Bensouda on the phone and hinted that her family members might be harmed by her decisions regarding the investigation against Israel.

Israeli officials confirmed to Israeli outlet TheMarker as early as 2022 the existence of an operation led by Cohen designed to extort the former prosecutor or “recruit her.” However, TheMarker claimed Netanyahu used legal powers given to the security system by virtue of the state of emergency declared in Israel from the day it was established to prevent the disclosure of the affair in Israel. The Guardian’s publication of the scandal, allowed the Israeli media to quote the source.

Officials who spoke with TheMarker also clarified that the operation was not a “piracy initiative of the chief spy Yossi Cohen,” but rather the failed operation was approved by the accepted procedure in Israel by the “authorized authorities” to approve operations of Mossad. The outlet explains that since Mossad is directly subordinate to the Prime Minister, the identity of the “authorized bodies” indicates Netanyahu’s approval of the operation. Also, in the publication in The Guardian was stated by sources that Netanyahu approved the operation.

The ICC, established to prosecute individuals for genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity, has been a focal point of controversy in Israeli politics. Bensouda’s investigation into alleged war crimes in Palestinian territories has faced intense opposition from Israeli officials, who argue that the court lacks jurisdiction and accuse it of bias against Israel.

The harassment allegations campaign allegedly orchestrated by Cohen and approved by Netanyahu is part of a broader strategy to undermine the ICC’s credibility and deter its investigations. According to the Guardian, this strategy has included diplomatic efforts, public relations campaigns, and now direct intimidation of court officials.

Karim Khan, who succeeded Bensouda as the ICC prosecutor, is known for his robust stance on upholding the court’s mandate. His decision to pursue new arrest warrants against Netanyahu and Cohen would significantly escalate the ICC’s efforts to protect its personnel and assert its authority.

Legal experts suggest that if Khan proceeds, it could lead to unprecedented legal and diplomatic challenges. Netanyahu, already facing multiple corruption trials domestically, would be thrust into an international legal battle, potentially impacting his political future and Israel’s relations with the ICC member states.



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