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US Senators Met ICC Officials To Stop Possible Arrest Warrant Against Netanyahu, Says Report

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Source: @IsraeliPM

A group of US Senators recently held a virtual meeting with senior officials at the International Criminal Court (ICC) in a bid to stop a possible arrest warrant against Netanyahu, says a media report in Axios. While ICC officials have made no official comment on this, speculation has emerged that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Defence Minister Yoav Gallant, and Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Herzi Halevi, along with other Israeli officials, may be served with warrants soon.

Details of the meeting were not known, with the office of the ICC prosecutor issuing a statement saying, “Confidentiality is a crucial aspect of the work of the Prosecutor. Therefore, we do not publicly discuss specifics related to the office’s activities and engagements.”

Israeli media reports have stated that Prime Minister Netanyahu who is extremely concerned over the issuance of such a warrant, had spoken to President Biden last Sunday to ask him to stop the issuance of the warrant. The US has already stated in a statement on Monday that “ICC has no jurisdiction in this situation, and we do not support its investigation.” It should be noted the warrant, if it does come, ICC officials have remained tight-lipped on the matter, is unlikely to change anything on the practical front. Neither Israel, nor the US, recognise its rulings, and the ICC has no power to enforce them.

The ICC 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. It has over 120 member nations, so should a warrant be issued, Prime Minister Netanyahu will find that his travel will be greatly reduced.

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A warrant could also 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. Finally, the biggest threat some say is to Netanyahu himself. A media report in the Israeli website Ynet points out that should he lose power, Netanyahu could face the same fate as deposed Yugoslavian leader Slobodan Milošević. Sanctioned for his role in the Yugoslav Wars and the Srebrenica genocide, Milošević was handed over to the international court by a political rival.       

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.

(With inputs from agencies)