Benjamin Netanyahu

Benjamin Netanyahu expressed his “disgust” at the International Criminal Court (ICC) prosecutor’s request for an arrest warrant targeting him. ICC Prosecutor Karim Khan has applied for arrest warrants for Israel’s Prime Minister Netanyahu, Israel’s Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, and Hamas leaders Yahya Sinwar, Mohammed Deif, and Ismail Haniyeh over alleged war crimes.

Netanyahu strongly rejected the comparison between democratic Israel and Hamas, condemning the prosecutor’s move. He emphasized that Israel would continue to defend itself against those aiming to destroy the country. “With what audacity do you compare Hamas that murdered, burned, butchered, decapitated, raped and kidnapped our brothers and sisters and the IDF soldiers fighting a just war,” Netanyahu said. “No pressure and no decision in any international forum will prevent us from striking those who seek to destroy us.”

Benjamin Netanyahu

US President Joe Biden called the ICC prosecutor’s move “outrageous,” stressing that there is no comparison between Israel and Hamas. “Let me be clear: whatever this prosecutor might imply, there is no equivalence—none—between Israel and Hamas,” Biden stated.

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Prosecutor Khan explained his application for the arrest warrants, stating that international humanitarian law applies equally to all individuals. He believes the Hamas leaders are responsible for war crimes and crimes against humanity, listing offenses like murder, hostage-taking, and sexual violence. “We submit that the crimes against humanity charged were part of a widespread and systematic attack against the civilian population of Israel by Hamas and other armed groups,” Khan said.

Similarly, Khan stated that Netanyahu and Gallant bear responsibility for war crimes, including the starvation of civilians and attacks on civilian populations. “We submit that the crimes against humanity charged were committed as part of a widespread and systematic attack against the Palestinian civilian population pursuant to state policy,” he added.

The application for arrest warrants comes as Israel continues its offensive against Hamas in Gaza, following a deadly raid by the Palestinian militant group on October 7.

A senior Hamas official criticized the ICC’s action, claiming it equates the victim with the executioner. Benny Gantz, a former military chief and member of Israel’s war cabinet, harshly criticized Khan’s announcement, stating that Israel fights with “one of the strictest” moral codes and has a robust judiciary capable of investigating itself.

In the UK, a spokesman for Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said the ICC’s action was “not helpful” for reaching a pause in the fighting, getting hostages out, or getting humanitarian aid in. Sunak has expressed concern about an Israeli military offensive in Rafah and has called for more aid to enter Gaza, while also defending Israel’s right to self-defense.

A panel of pre-trial judges will determine whether the evidence supports issuing arrest warrants. It is expected they will take around two months to consider the evidence and decide if the matter can move forward.

Israel is not a member of the ICC, so even if the arrest warrants are issued, Netanyahu and Gallant do not face immediate prosecution. The court has no means to enforce arrest warrants, and its investigation into the Gaza war has long been opposed by the US and Israel.

However, Khan’s announcement increases Israel’s isolation as it continues the conflict, and the threat of arrest could make it difficult for Israeli leaders to travel abroad.

In addition to the ICC issue, Israel is facing a separate case in the International Court of Justice, brought by South Africa, accusing Israel of genocide. Israel denies these charges.

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