Israel accuses ICC of antisemitism amid rumors they may issue arrest warrants for genocidal leaders
05/05/2024 // Cassie B. // Views

One tactic Israel has been leaning into a lot lately is accusing those who criticize the country of antisemitism, and this was on full display in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s recent response to the news that the International Criminal Court may be issuing arrest warrants for Israeli leaders.

The International Criminal Court (ICC) is based in The Hague and serves a similar function to the International Court of Justice (ICJ), but it investigates individuals rather than disputes between states. The latter is overseeing a genocide case that South Africa has brought against Israel.

Over the weekend, reports emerged that ICC arrest warrants over Israel’s genocide in Gaza could be forthcoming. In addition to Netanyahu, some of the names that have been mentioned as being subject to arrest warrants include Israeli Defense Forces Chief of Staff Herzi Halevi and Defense Minister Yoav Gallant.

Netanyahu said: “If this does happen, it will be an indelible stain on humanity. It would be an unprecedented antisemitic hate crime that would add fuel to the antisemitic incitement that is already raging in the world.”

He appears to be at least somewhat worried about this possibility as he called on other world leaders to step up and take a stand against the ICC for investigating the Jewish state.

He said: “Israel expects the leaders of the free world to come out strongly against this scandalous step, a step that will harm the self-defense not only of the State of Israel, but of all democracies.”

So far, he seems to have the U.S. on his side, with the White House speaking out against both the ICJ's ruling that Israel is plausibly committing genocide in Gaza and the ICC's current investigation of Israel.

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White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said: “We’ve been really clear about the ICC investigation, that we don’t support it, we don’t believe that they have the jurisdiction.”

If an arrest warrant is issued for Netanyahu, it will mark the first time the leader of a Western-style democracy has been subject to one. The ICC has previously issued arrest warrants for world leaders such as Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi, Uganda’s Joseph Kony and Russia’s Vladimir Putin.

Although the ICC has not officially confirmed impending arrest warrants, Chief Prosecutor Karim Khan KC visited the occupied West Bank and Israel in December, meeting political leaders and victims’ families to discuss their experiences. He condemned the violence on both sides and vowed to investigate.

In a statement issued around the time of his visit, he cautioned: "All actors must comply with international humanitarian law. If you do not do so, do not complain when my office is required to act."

Israel warns it will retaliate against Palestinian Authority if arrest warrants are issued

Israel told the U.S. that it has information indicating that officials with the Palestinian Authority have been pressuring the ICC prosecutor to issue the warrants. Israeli officials warned their American counterparts that if this happens, they will consider the Palestinian Authority to be responsible and will take retaliatory steps against them that could cause their collapse. It is not known what specific actions they have in mind, but one possibility is freezing the transfer of the tax revenues that Israel collects for the Palestinian Authority, which would leave them bankrupt.

Axios reports that a bipartisan group of senators recently met virtually with senior ICC officials to share their reservations about the potential arrest warrants. The issue also came up in a phone call between Netanyahu and President Biden over the weekend in which Biden reportedly insisted that the U.S. is opposed to ICC investigations against the Jewish State.

One U.S. official said: "We are quietly encouraging the ICC not to do it. It will blow up everything. Israel will retaliate against the Palestinian Authority."

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