update deskIsrael at War

Netanyahu: ICC warrants would be unprecedented antisemitism

"The possibility that they will issue arrest warrants ... is a scandal of historical magnitude," said the Israeli premier.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Tel Aviv, Dec. 18, 2023. Photo by Benjamin Applebaum/U.S. Department of Defense.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Tel Aviv, Dec. 18, 2023. Photo by Benjamin Applebaum/U.S. Department of Defense.

If the International Criminal Court in The Hague issues arrest warrants for Israeli political and military leaders over the war against Hamas in the Gaza Strip, it would constitute an “unprecedented antisemitic hate crime,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Tuesday.

“The possibility that they will issue arrest warrants for war crimes against IDF commanders and government leaders is a scandal of historical magnitude,” said the premier.

“Eighty years after the Holocaust, the international bodies established with the goal of preventing another Holocaust are considering denying the Jewish state its right to defend itself,” he continued.

Netanyahu noted that this marks the first time that a democratic country committed to international law is defending itself from accusations of war crimes while at the same time facing existential threats.

“If this does happen, it will be an indelible stain on humanity. It would be an unprecedented antisemitic hate crime that would add fuel to the antisemitic incitement that is already raging in the world,” he said.

“Israel expects the leaders of the free world to come out strongly against this scandalous step, a step that will harm the self-defense not only of the State of Israel, but of all democracies,” Netanyahu said.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s remarks, April 30, 2024. Credit: Prime Minister’s Office.

Earlier on Tuesday, President Issac Herzog “unequivocally objected” to any move by the International Criminal Court to issue arrest warrants.

“As I have reiterated over the last months to leaders from around the world: Israel has the full right and duty to free our hostages and defend our citizens,” began Herzog.

“The State of Israel, our military and security forces are working tirelessly to achieve these goals, operating totally in accordance with international law. I unequivocally object to any attempt to abuse international legal institutions—including the ICC—to deny the State of Israel its basic rights. We have an independent and robust judicial system that knows how to investigate as needed,” he continued.

“Such actions will only serve to tie the hands of all free and democratic nations in the fight against terror, and must be strongly opposed,” added the president.

Jerusalem believes that the ICC will issue arrest warrants against Netanyahu, Defense Minister Yoav Gallant and Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi as early as this week.

The warrants would likely be issued against the background of the humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip, where the IDF is fighting Hamas, as well as accusations that Israel breached the Fourth Geneva Convention related to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War.

U.S. lawmakers will take retaliatory action if the International Criminal Court issues arrest warrants for Israeli leaders, Axios reported on Monday.

House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) issued a statement on Monday calling the prospective warrants “disgraceful” and “lawless.”

“Instead of wrongly targeting Israel, the ICC should pursue charges against Iran and its terror proxies, including Hamas, for engaging in horrific war crimes,” said Johnson.

He called on the Biden administration to “immediately and unequivocally demand that the ICC stand down,” and “use every available tool to prevent such an abomination.”

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