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Netanyahu Braces For Potential Arrest Warrant By International Criminal Court

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Source: @IsraeliPM

Prime Minister Netanyahu is said to be a worried man, as Israeli media reports have suggested that he along with other senior Israeli officials may receive an arrest warrant as early as this week from the International Criminal Court (ICC) Though Netanyahu took to X with a defiant statement on Monday stating that Israel would “never accept any attempt by the Hague Criminal Court to undermine its fundamental right to defend itself,” and the Hague Tribunal’s decision constituted a “threat against IDF soldiers and public figures of Israel, the only democracy in the Middle East,” media reports suggest that he is a worried man.

According to a Times of Israel report, Tel Aviv is believed to have activated all diplomatic channels to ensure that the ICC warrant is blocked, and Netanyahu is believed to have reached out to President Biden to discuss the matter. The US’s White House spokesperson has already made it clear through a statement on Monday that “ICC has no jurisdiction in this situation, and we do not support its investigation.”

The warrant, if it does come, ICC officials have remained tight-lipped on the matter, is however unlikely to change anything on the practical front. The ICC which was established in 2002 as the permanent court of last resort to prosecute individuals responsible for the world’s most heinous atrocities – war crimes, crimes against humanity, genocide, and the crime of aggression – has no power to enforce its warrant; this depends on the member countries.

Currently, according to the international organisation’s official website, it has over 120 member countries. This suggests that while Netanyahu may not be at threat at home, he can certainly be inconvenienced when traveling abroad. A warrant could possibly put Israeli officials in third countries at risk and could stoke anger against Israelis. Foreign Minister Israel Katz already warned Israeli embassies on Sunday to bolster their security because of the risk of a “wave of severe antisemitism.” The US has argued it could also derail the ongoing indirect peace talks between Israel and Hamas.

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So far, the ICC has stated, no action will be taken after examining all aspects of the evidence. But in October ICC chief prosecutor Karim Khan said the court had jurisdiction over any potential war crimes committed by Hamas fighters in Israel and by Israeli forces in the Gaza Strip.

Potential action such as the issuing of a warrant by the ICC is different from the genocide case Israel is facing at the International Court of Justice (ICJ). The ICJ can only rule on disputes between states, while the ICC can target individuals. This was seen on March 17, 2023 when in a press release, the international body said it had issued an arrest warrant against President Putin and Maria Alekseyevna Lvova-Belova, Commissioner for Children’s Rights in the Office of the President of the Russian Federation. According to the release, both were charged for the “war crime of unlawful deportation of population (children) and that of unlawful transfer of population (children) from occupied areas of Ukraine to the Russian Federation (under articles 8(2)(a)(vii) and 8(2)(b)(viii) of the Rome Statute).”

(With inputs from agencies)