Netanyahu worried about Europe stopover due to ICC arrest warrant fears

Netanyahu worried about Europe stopover due to ICC arrest warrant fears
The Israeli prime minister prefers to make a direct long-haul flight to the US rather than stopping in Europe, over fears of arrest.
3 min read
10 July, 2024
Netanyahu is scheduled to visit the US for a speech at Congress on July 24 [Getty/file photo]

A government plane carrying Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to the US this month will avoid stopping in Europe over fears about a possible arrest warrant for the premier, Israeli media has said.

In May, International Criminal Court (ICC) Prosecutor Karim Khan said that he was seeking arrest warrants for top Israeli figures, including Netanyahu and Israel’s Defence Minister Yoav Gallant, over war crimes in Gaza.

Hamas leaders Yahya Sinwar, Mohammed Deif, and Ismail Haniyeh are also wanted.

Israel’s Reshet Bet radio station said on Wednesday morning that Netanyahu had considered stopping in countries friendly to Israel and avoiding states that could implement the arrest warrant.

Netanyahu’s office has reportedly studied whether the prime minister's Wing of Zion plane was legally capable of making a stop in Europe en route to the US.

This examination comes after his office laid doubt about the plane flying directly across the Atlantic from Ben Gurion airport to Washington D.C. Stopping somewhere could risk getting Netanyahu arrested, in line with the ICC warrant.

Alternative options have been studied, such as requesting to stop in countries closer to Israel such as the Czech Republic or Hungary; but Netanyahu prefers to abstain from any layovers completely and would rather fly directly to Washington, Reshet Bet said.

Due to these concerns, the Wing of Zion plane will have to carry only around 60 people, and some members of Netanyahu’s delegation would have to make separate flights to Washington.

Netanyahu has previously expressed fears about the application for an ICC arrest warrant by the prosecutor, despite trying to underestimate the court.

Many of Israel’s closest allies - including Germany - have said they will arrest the prime minister if he visits the country and the warrant is issued, while the UK’s newly elected Labour government is reportedly expected to drop its legal bid to delay the ICC from processing the arrest warrant.

The US has blasted the ICC, saying it will stand by Israel regardless.

During his Washington visit on 24 July, Netanyahu is expected to speak at Congress and meet US President Joe Biden, the first meeting between the two since October last year which took place in Israel only days after the start of the Gaza war.

Tensions have run high between the two leaders. While the Biden administration has occasionally raised concerns about Israel’s brutal military conduct in Gaza, particularly using American weapons, Netanyahu has blasted Washington for delaying arms shipments.

Israel’s relentless air and ground offensive has killed over 38,000 people in the Palestinian enclave, which remains under siege. Thousands more could possibly be dead but unaccounted for, and much of the enclave has been reduced to rubble.

US, Qatari, and Egyptian meditation efforts have resumed after a months-long hiatus to try and reach a ceasefire deal between Israel and the Palestinian Hamas movement.