Israel worried ICC could issue arrest warrant for Netanyahu

Israel worried ICC could issue arrest warrant for Netanyahu
The ICC has been investigating Israel's treatment of Palestinians since 2021 and Israeli officials are reportedly concerned arrest warrants could be issued
4 min read
27 April, 2024
Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu could be subjected to an arrest warrant by the ICC, joining the likes of Vladimir Putin and Muammar Gaddafi [GETTY]

Israel is reportedly worried that the International Criminal Court (ICC) might issue an arrest warrant for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other senior officials in the wake of its ongoing case concerning Israel and Palestine.

Senior government officials held emergency meetings in Tel Aviv this week to discuss the possibility that the court could issue arrest warrants for Netanyahu, defence minister Yoav Gallant and army chief of staff Herzi Halevi, according to Israeli media reports.

Concerned Israeli officials have been attempting to garner support from Western allies over the matter which concerns the ICC's probe into Israel's current war on Gaza and other atrocities committed by Israeli forces in the occupied West Bank dating back to 2014. 

It is not clear when an arrest warrant might be issued and it is not standard for the court to disclose such information.

But the prospect of an arrest warrant against Netanyahu was first aired in an opinion piece by British pro-Israel commentator Douglas Murray on Thursday in the US tabloid newspaper the New York Post.

Murray wrote that in "the next few days" warrants could be issued. The warrant would not see Netanyahu immediately face trial, but it would be a major blow on the world stage for the premier and place pressure on Israel's allies and ICC members to act.

On Friday, in an apparent rebuttal to the speculation, Netanyahu said an ICC ruling would not impact his war in Gaza, which has so far killed 34,000 Palestinians and triggered a major humanitarian crisis.

"Under my leadership, Israel will never accept any attempt by the International Criminal Court in the Hague to undermine its basic right to defend itself," Netanyahu said in a statement on Telegram.

"While decisions made by the court in the Hague will not affect Israel's actions, they will set a dangerous precedent that threatens soldiers and public figures," he said.

Senior Israeli officials are reportedly concerned about what such a warrant would mean for the its military campaign against Hamas in Gaza. Officials quoted by Israel's Channel 13 broadcaster, said that they believe the tribunal will target policymakers rather than junior soldiers.

The country has faced repeated accusations from international bodies and human rights experts that its war in Gaza is breaching international law, particularly over its collective punishment of Gaza's 2.3 million population who are facing widespread hunger, disease, and displacement.

The case at the ICC is separate from the genocide case brought by South Africa to the International Court of Justice at the end of 2023, which is also based in The Hauge.

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Israel has been accused of ignoring the ICJ's preliminary ruling in January in which it was ordered to take all measures to protect civilian life in Gaza and do it all its power to refrain from genocidal acts.

At least 34,300 Palestinians have been killed and 77,500 wounded in Israeli bombardment since October and the civilian death toll rises daily.

Since 2021 the ICC has been investigating alleged atrocities committed by Israel in Gaza and the West Bank dating back to 2014.

Although Israel is not a signatory to the ICC, the court says it has jurisdiction to investigate possible war crimes carried out by Israelis in Gaza and Hamas militants in Israel.

ICC prosecutor Karim Khan, a British barrister, said that his office has jurisdiction over crimes in the current fighting between Israel and armed Palestinian groups that covers unlawful actions by all parties.

Khan visited Israel and the Rafah border crossing between Gaza and Egypt in December.

Last year, the ICC issued an arrest warrant for Russian President Vladimir Putin which accused him of responsibility of the illegal deportation of Ukrainian children in his war in Ukraine.

Putin is the third world leader, after former Sudanese president Omar al-Bashir and former Libyan ruler Muammar Gaddafi to be issued such a warrant while still in power.

The court was established in 2002 to prosecute war crimes, crimes against humanity, genocide and the crime of aggression when the 124 member states are unwilling to do so themselves.