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US lawmakers threaten ICC over possible Israeli arrest warrants

House Speaker Mike Johnson calls the prospective warrants "disgraceful," "lawless," warns the ICC could issue them against American diplomats and military personnel.

Speaker of the House Mike Johnson (R-La.) speaks during a House Judiciary Committee field hearing on New York City violent crimes, at the Javits Federal Building in New York City on April 17, 2023. Credit: Lev Radin/Shutterstock.
Speaker of the House Mike Johnson (R-La.) speaks during a House Judiciary Committee field hearing on New York City violent crimes, at the Javits Federal Building in New York City on April 17, 2023. Credit: Lev Radin/Shutterstock.

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.”

“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.

Johnson 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.”

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

Jerusalem believes that the ICC will issue arrest warrants against Prime Minister Benjamin 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.

House Foreign Affairs Committee Chair Michael McCaul (R-Texas) told Axios he expects a version of Sen. Tom Cotton’s (R-Ark.) bill to sanction ICC officials involved in investigating the United States and its allies, adding: “We hope it doesn’t come to that.”

Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Calif.) suggested that the United States “think of whether we stay a signatory” to the Rome Statute—the treaty that established the ICC.

Rep. Ritchie Torres (D-N.Y.) and Sen. John Fetterman (D-Pa.) also criticized the ICC over the warrants, with the former calling for “strong consequences from both Congress and the president.”

The Palestinian Authority has already declared its acceptance of the jurisdiction of the ICC over alleged crimes committed by Israel. However, Israel does not recognize ICC jurisdiction over its conflict with the Palestinians.

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

Last week, 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.

“While the ICC will not affect Israel’s actions, it would set a dangerous precedent that threatens the soldiers and officials of all democracies fighting savage terrorism and wanton aggression,” he added.

Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich has threatened to cut all funding to the P.A. if certain unilateral actions are brought against Israel in the international arena.

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