Mossad Chief Threatens ICC Prosecutor Over War Crimes Probe

Mossad Chief

According to an investigative report published on Tuesday by a reputable British daily, Yossi Cohen, the ex-chief of Israel’s intelligence agency Mossad and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s “unofficial messenger,” allegedly exerted pressure on Fatou Bensouda, the former chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC), in a series of secret meetings. The purpose of these meetings was to persuade Bensouda to halt investigations into Israeli war crimes in the occupied Palestinian territories.

“Yossi Cohen’s covert contacts with the ICC’s then prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, took place in the years leading up to her decision to open a formal investigation into alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity in occupied Palestinian territories,” The Guardian said in its report.

That investigation, which began in 2021, culminated last week when Karim Khan, Bensouda’s successor, announced that he was seeking an arrest warrant for Netanyahu for the country’s actions during the Gaza war.

The prosecutor’s decision to apply to the ICC’s pretrial chamber for arrest warrants for Netanyahu and his Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, as well as three Hamas leaders, is something Israel’s military and political establishment has long feared, the daily said.

“Cohen’s personal involvement in the operation against the ICC took place when he was the director of the Mossad,” it said.

According to the report, a senior Israeli official’s actions were sanctioned “at a high level” and justified in light of the court’s perceived threat of prosecuting military personnel.

The Mossad’s aim was “to compromise the prosecutor or enlist her as someone who would cooperate with Israel’s demands,” the UK’s daily said in the report, citing another Israeli source familiar with the threats against Bensouda.

Cohen, described as one of the prime minister’s “closest allies” and “unofficial messenger,” is said to have led Mossad’s role in Israel’s nearly decade-long effort to undermine the ICC.

According to four sources cited by The Guardian, Bensouda informed a select group of senior ICC officials about Cohen’s efforts to exert pressure on her, raising concerns about the “threatening nature of his behaviour.”

Cohen is accused of saying to the ICC prosecutor: “You should help us and let us take care of you. You don’t want to be getting into things that could compromise your security or that of your family.”

“The Mossad also took a keen interest in Bensouda’s family members and obtained transcripts of secret recordings of her husband, according to two sources with direct knowledge of the situation. Israeli officials then attempted to use the material to discredit the prosecutor,” the report said.

The ICC case goes back to 2015, when Bensouda began a preliminary examination into the situation in Palestine, assessing allegations of crimes in Gaza, the West Bank, and East Jerusalem.

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