Biden rejects International Criminal Court warrant request for Israeli leaders

21 May 2024, 06:04

Biden
Biden. Picture: PA

Mr Netanyahu and other Israeli leaders condemned the move as disgraceful and antisemitic.

US President Joe Biden has rejected an application from the world’s top war crimes court for arrest warrants for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and defence minister Yoav Gallant.

Mr Netanyahu and Mr Gallant do not face imminent arrest, but the announcement by the International Criminal Court’s (ICC) chief prosecutor was a symbolic blow that deepened Israel’s isolation over the war in Gaza.

Karim Khan accused Mr Netanyahu, Mr Gallant and three Hamas leaders — Yehya Sinwar, Mohammed Deif and Ismail Haniyeh — of war crimes and crimes against humanity in the Gaza Strip and Israel.

Mr Netanyahu and other Israeli leaders condemned the move as disgraceful and antisemitic. Mr Biden lambasted the prosecutor and supported Israel’s right to defend itself against Hamas.

Speaking at a White House event for Jewish American Heritage Month, Mr Biden said the effort to arrest Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (Ohad Zwigenberg, AP Pool)[/caption]

Israel is not a member of the court, so even if the arrest warrants are issued, Mr Netanyahu and Mr Gallant do not face any immediate risk of prosecution. But the threat of arrest could make it difficult for the Israeli leaders to travel abroad.

Mr Netanyahu called the prosecutor’s accusations against him a “disgrace” and an attack on the Israeli military and all of Israel. He vowed to press ahead with Israel’s war against Hamas.

Hamas also denounced the ICC prosecutor’s actions, saying the request to arrest its leaders “equates the victim with the executioner”.

Mr Netanyahu has come under heavy pressure at home to end the war. Thousands of Israelis have joined weekly demonstrations calling on the government to reach a deal to bring home Israeli hostages in Hamas captivity, fearing that time is running out.

In recent days, the two other members of his war Cabinet, Mr Gallant and Benny Gantz, have threatened to resign if Mr Netanyahu does not spell out a clear post-war vision for Gaza.

But on Monday, Mr Netanyahu received wall-to-wall support as politicians across the spectrum condemned the ICC prosecutor’s move. They included Israel’s president, Isaac Herzog, and his two main political rivals, Mr Gantz and opposition leader Yair Lapid.

It is unclear what effect Mr Khan’s move will have on Mr Netanyahu’s public standing.

The possibility of an arrest warrant could give him a boost as Israelis rally behind the flag, but his opponents could also blame him for bringing a diplomatic catastrophe on the country.

By Press Association

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