Biden: ICC prosecutor’s decision to pursue arrest warrants against Netanyahu, Gallant ‘outrageous’

Jacob Magid is The Times of Israel's US bureau chief

US President Joe Biden speaks during the NAACP Detroit Branch annual 'Fight for Freedom Fund Dinner' in Detroit, Michigan on May 19, 2024. (Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/ AFP)
US President Joe Biden speaks during the NAACP Detroit Branch annual 'Fight for Freedom Fund Dinner' in Detroit, Michigan on May 19, 2024. (Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/ AFP)

US President Joe Biden calls the decision by International Criminal Court chief prosecutor Karim Khan to pursue arrest warrants against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Yoav Gallant “outrageous.”

Khan also asked the ICC to issue arrest warrants against Hamas leaders Yahya Sinwar, Mohammed Deif, and Ismail Haniyeh.

“Let me be clear: whatever this prosecutor might imply, there is no equivalence — none — between Israel and Hamas. We will always stand with Israel against threats to its security,” Biden says in a statement.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken says the Biden administration “fundamentally rejects” Khan’s decision.

“We reject the prosecutor’s equivalence of Israel with Hamas. It is shameful. Hamas is a brutal terrorist organization that carried out the worst massacre of Jews since the Holocaust and is still holding dozens of innocent people hostage, including Americans,” Blinken says in his own statement.

The secretary of state reiterates the long-held US stance that the ICC has no jurisdiction over the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, in no small part due to the fact that Israel — and the US — are not members of the court.

“The ICC was established by its state parties as a court of limited jurisdiction. Those limits are rooted in principles of complementarity, which do not appear to have been applied here, amid the prosecutor’s rush to seek these arrest warrants, rather than allowing the Israeli legal system a full and timely opportunity to proceed,” Blinken says.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, third right, stands between Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, third left, and UN Senior Humanitarian and Reconstruction Coordinator for Gaza Sigrid Kaag, right, at the Kerem Shalom border crossing in Kerem Shalom, on May 1, 2024. (Evelyn Hockstein/Pool Photo via AP)

“In other situations, the prosecutor deferred to national investigations and worked with states to allow them time to investigate. The prosecutor did not afford the same opportunity to Israel, which has ongoing investigations into allegations against its personnel,” he continues.

“There are also deeply troubling process questions,” Blinken says.

“Despite not being a member of the court, Israel was prepared to cooperate with the prosecutor. In fact, the prosecutor himself was scheduled to visit Israel as early as next week to discuss the investigation and hear from the Israeli government. The prosecutor’s staff was supposed to land in Israel today to coordinate the visit. Israel was informed that they did not board their flight around the same time that the prosecutor went on cable television to announce the charges,” Blinken notes.

“These and other circumstances call into question the legitimacy and credibility of this investigation.”

“Fundamentally, this decision does nothing to help and could jeopardize, ongoing efforts to reach a ceasefire agreement that would get hostages out and surge humanitarian assistance in, which are the goals the United States continues to pursue relentlessly,” Blinken warns.

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