Israel and allies in overdrive after ICC Netanyahu, Gallant arrest warrants request

Israel and allies in overdrive after ICC Netanyahu, Gallant arrest warrants request
Israel and its allies have rounded on the ICC after a report recommending arrest warrants for Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu and DM Gallant.
3 min read
21 May, 2024
Biden has strongly opposed a potential ICC arrest warrant for Israel PM Netanyahu [Getty]

Hours after the International Criminal Court's (ICC) chief prosecutor called for arrest warrants for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defence Minister Yoav Gallant, supporters of Israel went into overdrive, calling for the body to be disbanded or saying only "Africans" should be tried there.

Karim Khan, chief prosecutor of the ICC, said on Monday he would proceed with arrest warrants for the two Israeli officials and Hamas leaders Yahya Sinwar, Ismail Haniyeh, and Mohammed Deif, after a legal panel concluded there was enough evidence for war crimes in Gaza and Israel to try the individuals.

Hamas has been accused of killing up to 1,200 Israelis and taking 250 hostage during the 7 October attacks in southern Israel.

Netanyahu and Gallant could be tried for their role in the war on Gaza, which has seen civilian populations starved, homes and hospitals bombed, and over 35,000 people - mostly women and children - killed in the seven-month assault. 

Hours after the legal and academic experts' findings were made public, Netanyahu suggested the ICC should focus on Hamas, even though Israel is not a signatory of the Rome Statute.

"As prime minister of Israel, I reject with disgust the Hague prosecutor's comparison between democratic Israel and the mass murderers of Hamas," he responded.

"With what audacity do you compare Hamas that murdered, burned, butchered, decapitated, raped and kidnapped our brothers and sisters and the IDF soldiers fighting a just war?"

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Yair Lapid, a political adversary of Netanyahu, suggested the silver bullet for the PM is Riyadh, and recommended he quickly normalise relations with Saudi Arabia to reduce the chances of an ICC case against him.

"Netanyahu should announce that he has entered into negotiations with the Saudis, including the Palestinian component," he told Army Radio, according to The Times of Israel.

"In The Hague they will not prosecute a prime minister who is in the middle of a historic peace process. This will solve The Hague [problem] for us and the [issue of] the day-after in Gaza‚ and it will help us mobilise the Saudis to apply pressure regarding the issue of the hostages."

Although Israel is not a member of the ICC, many of its allies are, so a visit by the PM to Europe could technically see him arrested and handed over to The Hague if the arrest warrants are issued.

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Such a scenario appears highly unlikely, with Germany and France publicly backing the independence of the ICC but also rejecting any comparison between Israeli and Hamas leaders.

The US has been more forthright in its criticism of Khan, with President Joe Biden calling the ICC ruling "outrageous".

"And let me be clear: whatever this prosecutor might imply, there is no equivalence - none - between Israel and Hamas. We will always stand with Israel against threats to its security," Biden said in a statement.

Khan appeared to acknowledge the immense challenges the ICC faces in its pursuit for justice for Gaza, when speaking to CNN on Monday.

"I've had some elected leaders speak to me and they were very blunt. 'This court is built for Africa and for thugs like Putin,' was what one senior leader told me," Khan told the broadcaster.

Pro-Israel commentators have also piled on the ICC for the decision. Melanie Phillips, a British columnist and strong supporter of Israel, wrote in an op-ed on Tuesday calling the bid to prosecute Netanyahu "a wickedly perverse and deeply troubling move".