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Palestinian bid to join ICC; Israel in a sharp rebuke vows to counter

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Jerusalem (Jan. 04, 2015): Vowing to protect Israeli soldiers from facing international war crimes charges, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu Sunday said that the Jewish state would vigorously defend its soldiers in response to a Palestinian bid to join the International Criminal Court.

The Palestinian Authority's (PA) move to join the Hague-based International Criminal Court (ICC) two days ago can lead to potential legal action against Israel for war crimes, a step designed to pressure the country to pull out of territories demanded by the Palestinians.

In a sharp rebuke, Israel has decided to freeze the transfer of about USD 127 million in tax revenues to the PA in the first of a promised series of punitive measures to deter the Palestinians.

"IDF (Israel Defence Forces) soldiers will continue to defend the State of Israel with determination and might,"

"Just as they defend us, we will protect them with that same determination and the same might" Netanyahu told his cabinet.

Israel has quite often resorted to these measures whenever PA has taken unilateral diplomatic or political initiatives at international forums.

"The PA has chosen confrontation with the State of Israel, and we will not sit with folded hands," Netanyahu said arguing that the Palestinian leadership should be put on trial before the ICC for signing a 2014 reconciliation agreement with the Islamist Hamas militant group which has led to the establishment of a national unity government.

Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip after overthrowing PA forces in 2007, in its charter calls for the destruction of Israel and the establishment of an Islamic state on the pre-1948 borders.

The ICC has the powers to prosecute individuals accused of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes committed since July 1, 2002, when the court's founding treaty, the Rome Statute, came into effect.

Israel transfers customs duties levied on goods destined for Palestinian markets that transit through its ports as per a treaty signed between the two sides in 1994.

The tax revenues make up for around two-thirds of the PA's annual budget.