Biden Rejects World Court Investigation Of Israel As Netanyahu Arrest Warrant Looms

The Biden administration is reportedly in the midst of a diplomatic full court press in efforts to prevent the International Criminal Court (ICC) from issuing arrest warrants for top Israeli officials, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The ICC is also expected to issue warrants for Defense Minister Yoav Gallant and Israel Defense Forces chief of staff Herzi Halevi, in connection with alleged large-scale human rights abuses related to the war in Gaza.

Axios reports Monday that the Israeli government is growing “increasingly concerned” over the possible action, while Walla news has written that Netanyahu is “under unusual stress” over what will be a largely symbolic, albeit still deeply embarrassing reputational black eye for his government at a moment he’s facing immense domestic pressure at home to bring back the hostages.

Via AFP

The Israeli leader has personally asked President Biden to intervene. Axios details of the call: “The officials said Netanyahu expressed his concern to Biden in a phone call on Sunday, where the two leaders also discussed hostage negotiations, Israel’s defense against Iran’s missile attack, and the need to increase humanitarian aid to Gaza, according to a White House readout.”

The White House has issued a fresh statement Monday stressing that the United States “does not support” the ongoing ICC investigation into Israeli war crimes.

The ICC’s investigation actually goes all the way back to the 2014 Israel-Hamas war. But also following Oct.7 and Israel’s invasion of Gaza, South Africa brought a fresh war crimes case – which has gained the support of countries like Turkey, but especially a number of countries of the Global South.

The Hague-based court in March 2023 issued an arrested warrant for Russian President Vladimir Putin over the Ukraine war, so this means that ironically Netanyahu could soon be a “wanted” man right alongside Putin.

On Friday Netanyahu defiantly said, “We will never stop defending ourselves. Whereas decisions of the court in the Hague will not affect Israel’s actions, they would be a dangerous precedent threatening the soldiers and officials of any democracy fighting criminal terrorism and aggression,” in a message on X.

Israel is now warning that an ICC warrant could blow up a hostage deal being mediated by Egypt and Qatar:

If the International Criminal Court does issue arrest warrants for Israeli leaders, continues the official, it will lead to “a wave of antisemitism around the world” that could blow up a potential hostage deal. This is not an Israeli threat to walk away from talks in the case of an ICC decision, explains the official, but reflects Israel’s belief that international pressure on Israel will remove pressure on Hamas to make compromises necessary for a deal.

Reacting to the US State Department report that found five IDF units guilty of “gross human rights violations,” the official says that Jerusalem “categorically rejects any attempts to harm the IDF and Israel’s right to defend itself.”

In January, the ICC issued an interim ruling which stated that South Africa’s case has legal merit and can proceed while ordering Israel to take all measures capable to prevent acts of Genocide against Palestinians in the Gaza Strip. 

Ultimately the ICC has no enforcement power on its own, but can call on member states to arrest leaders on its blacklist if they ever travel through their territories. Putin back in August canceled an in-person trip to South Africa for a BRICS summit precisely to avoid a potential embarrassing situation at a moment Pretoria was being pressured to act.

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