newsIsrael at War

Israeli AG, state attorney reject ICC request to arrest Netanyahu, Gallant

Attorney General Gali Baharav-Miara and State Attorney Amit Aisman say the prosecutor's allegations are without basis.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Yoav Gallant hold a press conference at the Ministry of Defense in Tel Aviv, Oct. 28, 2023. Photo by Dana Kopel/POOL.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Yoav Gallant hold a press conference at the Ministry of Defense in Tel Aviv, Oct. 28, 2023. Photo by Dana Kopel/POOL.

Israel’s Attorney General Gali Baharav-Miara and State Attorney Amit Aisman rejected as “without foundation” the International Criminal Court prosecutor’s request to the Hague court to issue arrest warrants for Israel’s prime minister and defense minister.

“The security forces, including the IDF, wage war with full commitment to the rules of international law,” Baharav-Miara and Aisman said in a statement on Wednesday. They added that the court lacks “any authority” in the matter.

On Tuesday, ICC Chief Prosecutor Karim Khan announced he would request warrants for the arrest of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, claiming he has “reasonable grounds” to believe that they have committed war crimes.

On Tuesday, Foreign Minister Israel Katz said he would form “a special command center” to fight the ICC.  

The ICC’s assault on the legitimacy of Israel’s war effort despite lacking jurisdiction (Israel never signed on to the Rome Statute, which underpins the court) has raised questions among observers about Israel’s handling of the ICC threat until now.

Avi Bell, a professor of law at the University of San Diego and at Bar-Ilan University in Ramat Gan, leveled criticism at both the Foreign Ministry and the Attorney General’s Office, which for years have opted for a policy of cooperation.

He told JNS that only a few months ago, the ICC prosecutor’s team was invited to Israel “to interview witnesses, collect evidence and coordinate with the PLO in Ramallah.”

Attorney General Gali Baharav-Miara at a ceremony held for outgoing Supreme Court Justice George Karra, May 29, 2022. Photo by Yonatan Sindel/Flash90.

Given their track record, officials at the Foreign Ministry and Attorney General’s Office are the “last people” who should handle ICC strategy going forward, Bell said.

On Tuesday, Netanyahu and Gallant called the proposed arrest warrants “beyond outrageous” and “disgraceful.”

Khan said the two men were guilty of, among other things, the “starvation of civilians,” “willfully causing great suffering, and “intentionally directing attacks against a civilian population.”

The U.S. administration also denounced the ICC prosecutor’s move, with President Joe Biden saying, “there is no equivalence—none—between Israel and Hamas,” referring to Khan’s simultaneous request for arrest warrants against Israeli and Hamas leaders.

European parliamentarians in Israel on a solidarity visit also expressed shock and disbelief that the ICC prosecutor would create a false equivalence between Israel’s leaders and a terrorist group.

However, Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany and Slovenia issued tempered support for the ICC, saying its independence should be respected.

Ireland, Norway and Spain went further, announcing on Wednesday that they will recognize a Palestinian state, earning praise from terrorist group Hamas, which less than eight months ago carried out the worst single-day massacre of Jews since the Holocaust.

“We consider this an important step towards affirming our right to our land,” Hamas said, calling “on countries around the world to recognize our legitimate national rights.”

Israel recalled its ambassadors to those countries in response.

Some European leaders have come to Israel’s defense. Hungarian Premier Viktor Orban called the ICC prosecutor’s proposal “absurd and shameful.” Italy and the United Kingdom agreed.

However, the U.K.’s support for Israel only extends to its current government, which lost badly in local elections earlier this month and is expected to fall in the next general elections.

Labour Party Shadow Foreign Secretary David Lammy said his country must comply with all ICC warrants.

“Labour believes that the U.K. and all parties to the Rome Statute have a legal obligation to comply with orders and warrants issued by the court. Democracies who believe in the rule of law must submit themselves to it,” he said.

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