newsIsrael at War

Ministers, MKs slam ‘disgraceful’ ICC move against Israeli leaders

Arrest warrant request evidence of the bankruptcy of the international legal institutions, former Justice Minister Gideon Sa'ar says.

Karim Khan, elected on Feb. 12, 2021, as chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court. Credit: Loey Felipe/U.N. Photo.
Karim Khan, elected on Feb. 12, 2021, as chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court. Credit: Loey Felipe/U.N. Photo.

Israeli leaders rushed to defend the Jewish state after the International Court of Justice’s chief prosecutor said he would seek arrest warrants for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Yoav Gallant.

War Cabinet member Benny Gantz, who earlier this week butted heads with Netanyahu, defended Israel and its leaders, writing on X, “The State of Israel embarked on the most just war, after a massacre by a terrorist organization against its citizens.”

The Israel Defense Forces “fights in the most moral way in history, adhering to international law, and has an independent and strong judicial system. Placing the leaders of a country that went into battle to protect its citizens in the same line with bloodthirsty terrorists is moral blindness and a violation of its duty and ability to protect its citizens,” Gantz said.

“Accepting the position of the prosecutor would be a historic crime that cannot be denied,” he added.

Foreign Minister Israel Katz described the attempt to get Netanyahu and Gallant arrested as an “unrestrained frontal assault on the victims of October 7 and our 128 hostages in Gaza.

“While Hamas murderers and rapists commit crimes against humanity against our brothers and sisters, the prosecutor mentions in the same breath the prime minister and defense minister of Israel alongside the vile Nazi-like monsters of Hamas—a historical disgrace that will be remembered forever,” he said.

Katz said he ordered his office to immediately establish a special “command center” at the Foreign Ministry in an attempt to fight the decision, which was “intended primarily to shackle Israel’s hands and prevent it from exercising its right to self-defense.”

Justice Minister Yariv Levin denounced the prosecutor’s move as “one of the greatest moral disgraces in the history of mankind. Today, the citizens of Israel, and with us many others around the world, stand behind the prime minister, the country’s leadership and the IDF.”

Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich charged that “we have not seen such a show of hypocrisy and hatred of Jews like that displayed by the court in The Hague since Nazi propaganda.”

He said that “the Nazis also spoke in the name of ‘morality’ and there was nothing there besides antisemitism, as we have experienced throughout the generations. Enemies of Israel come and go, the glory of Israel will not die.”

National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir also slammed the prosecutor’s decision, saying, “The statement of the chief prosecutor in The Hague, which puts the prime minister and the defense minister on the same page as the leaders of Hamas, shows that sending representatives of Israel to the hearing at the antisemitic court was a grave mistake from the beginning.”

Energy Minister and former foreign minister Eli Cohen wrote, “The prosecutor’s request in The Hague is antisemitic hypocrisy, and it gives support to terrorism.”

Culture and Sports Minister Miki Zohar called on Israelis across the political spectrum to come out against the warrant application.

“I call on the … coalition and opposition alike, to condemn the scandalous decision of the prosecutor in The Hague. This is an unacceptable decision against the State of Israel and it is intended to harm the war efforts for the safety of our children. It’s time to unite and act together, we don’t have another country,” Zohar said.

Meanwhile, opposition leader and Yesh Atid Party leader Yair Lapid repeated his call for Gantz and his National Unity Party to exit the wartime government led by Netanyahu.

“He needs to leave the government today; otherwise he is fully complicit in its failure,” Lapid said, vowing to make a “supreme effort to overthrow this terrible government as soon as possible.”

“The State of Israel cannot afford to give Netanyahu the [Knesset’s] summer session, which would allow him to reach the winter session. Can you imagine him still being the prime minister on the seventh of October? It’s a chilling thought,” wrote the opposition leader.

Yisrael Beiteinu Party chairman Avigdor Liberman also criticized the government, saying, “We made a mistake when we went there [the International Court of Justice] the first time. We need to deal with it, but we also need to remind the members of the coalition that dealing with it without the Americans is almost impossible.”

Likud Knesset member Danny Danon, who served as ambassador to the United Nations from October 2015 to May 2020, also decried the ICC announcement, saying it “does not deserve the title of a legitimate judicial body.

“This is a puppet theater, manipulated by the directives of terrorists. I expect genuine democracies to condemn this blatantly antisemitic ruling,” added Danon.

Likud MK Dan Illouz wrote on X, “The statement of the chief prosecutor at the International Court of Justice on his request for arrest warrants against Israel’s leaders is a shameful act of moral bankruptcy.

“Comparing Israel—a democracy that cherishes and protects civilian life—to Hamas terrorists who commit atrocities and glorify death, is a scandalous and shameful distortion of justice. … This disgrace must be strongly condemned and will not be allowed to pass without a strong response,” Illouz wrote.

Moshe Saada, a Likud Knesset member, wrote on X, “The hearings at the Hague Tribunal are an antisemitic blood plot of 2024 that increases antisemitism and results in real harm to Jews around the world.

“The very request to issue an arrest warrant against the prime minister of Israel and its defense minister during a war is part of a modern blood plot.”

Saada said it was a mistake to engage with the ICC and the International Court of Justice, and Israel must now “renounce the antisemitic process and declare that it will not recognize the process, will not respect the decisions and will act against the court.”

MK Gideon Sa’ar, a former justice minister, said the prosecutor’s announcement “is evidence of the bankruptcy of the international legal institutions.”

Chief Prosecutor Karim Khan

ICC Chief Prosecutor Karim Khan announced his move during an interview on CNN on Monday. He said he will seek to try the two Israeli leaders for “causing extermination, causing starvation as a method of war, including the denial of humanitarian relief supplies [and] deliberately targeting civilians in conflict.”

“No one is above the law,” Khan said, adding that Israel is “free, notwithstanding their objections to jurisdiction, to raise a challenge before the judges of the court, and that’s what I advise them to do.”

The possibility of an ICC indictment set off a political firestorm in Israel when it was raised last month.

It was first reported by Channel 12 in April that the charges may come. At the time, an emergency meeting was held in Netanyahu’s office in the presence of Minister of Strategic Affairs Ron Dermer, Justice Minister Yariv Levin and Foreign Minister Israel Katz.

The four men decided to take “urgent action with international authorities” to prevent the arrest of Israelis abroad.

Following this, a group of close to 200 lawyers from Israel, the United States and around the world issued a letter to U.S. President Joe Biden urging him “to stop the Chief Prosecutor of the [International Criminal Court] from issuing arrest warrants against Israeli leaders and senior IDF officers.”

The U.S. issued a forceful rejection of Khan’s plans as well. House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) issued a statement on Monday calling the prospective warrants “disgraceful” and “lawless.”

“If unchallenged by the Biden administration, the ICC could create and assume unprecedented power to issue arrest warrants against American political leaders, American diplomats and American military personnel,” said Johnson.

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

Khan did also say on CNN that he would also seek to arrest Hamas leaders, including Gaza chief Yahya Sinwar, Al-Qassam Brigades armed wing head Mohammed Deif and overall leader Ismail Haniyeh, for “extermination, murder, taking of hostages, rape and sexual assault in detention.”

Right of self-defense

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken previously expressed “serious concerns about the ICC’s attempts to exercise its jurisdiction over Israeli personnel.”

Netanyahu vowed to “never accept any attempt by the ICC to undermine” the Jewish state’s “inherent right of self-defense.”

“The threat to seize the soldiers and officials of the Middle East’s only democracy and the world’s only Jewish state is outrageous. We will not bow to it,” said the premier in April.

A White House spokesperson said then that “the ICC has no jurisdiction in this situation, and we do not support its investigation.”

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