Court would 'deny Jewish state the right to defend itself'

Netanyahu: ICC arrest warrants would be antisemitic hate crime, distortion of justice

Amid concerted effort to prevent Hague move against Israeli leaders, Channel 12 reports PM has asked families of hostages to appeal to court on behalf of targeted officials

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu delivers a video address regarding reports that the ICC may issue arrest warrants against Israeli officials, April 30, 2024. (Screenshot/GPO)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu delivers a video address regarding reports that the ICC may issue arrest warrants against Israeli officials, April 30, 2024. (Screenshot/GPO)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu accused the International Criminal Court in The Hague on Tuesday of trying to prevent Israel from defending itself against terrorism, amid reports that the UN court could issue arrest warrants for some of Israel’s top officials — including him.

“Eighty years after the Holocaust, the international bodies that were established to prevent another Holocaust are considering denying the Jewish state the right to defend itself against those who came to commit genocide against us, and are still actively working to do so,” the prime minister said in an English-language video statement. “What an absurdity, what a distortion of justice and history.”

Israel fears the arrest warrants will be sought due to the humanitarian crisis amid the fighting in the Gaza Strip, with countries that accuse Israel of breaching international law said to be leading the effort.

Should the court issue arrest warrants against top Israelis for war crimes, it would be “a scandal on a historical scale,” Netanyahu said, calling such a move “an indelible stain on all of humanity” and an “unprecedented antisemitic hate crime.”

Accusing the ICC of intentionally trying to paralyze Israel’s political and military leadership, Netanyahu vowed that “no decision, neither in The Hague nor anywhere else, will harm our determination to achieve all the goals of the war,” which include bringing Israeli hostages home, removing Hamas from power and ensuring no threat remains in Gaza, and stabilizing Israel’s northern borders.

Netanyahu also lambasted the ICC for targeting IDF officials, arguing that Israel has one of the most moral armies in the world.

“You know the truth. Hamas places its weapons, its terrorists in hospitals, schools, mosques, and throughout civilian areas,” he said. “They do this in order to win immunity and maximize civilian casualties.”

IDF troops operate in the central Gaza corridor, in a handout image published April 28, 2024. (Israel Defense Forces)

Israel, on the other hand, he continued, “is facilitating a surge of humanitarian assistance to Gaza.”

He ended his statement with a call for world leaders to come out against the reported plan to issue arrest warrants, warning that such a move would harm not only Israel’s right to self-defense but that of “all democracies in the world.”

Writing for the Walla news site Sunday, analyst Ben Caspit said Netanyahu was “under unusual stress” over the prospect of an arrest warrant against him and other Israelis by the United Nations tribunal, which would constitute a major deterioration in Israel’s international status.

Netanyahu was leading a “nonstop push over the telephone” to prevent an arrest warrant, focused especially on the administration of US President Joe Biden, Caspit reported.

US Congress members from both parties have reportedly warned the ICC that Washington will retaliate if any arrest warrants are issued, and other allied nations are reported to have also expressed their opposition to such a move.

White House Spokesman Jack Kirby told Axios on Tuesday that “the US is opposed to an ICC investigation against Israel but is also opposed to threats and intimidations against the court’s judges.”

According to a Channel 12 news report, Netanyahu asked families of hostages held in Gaza to appeal to the ICC on behalf of the potentially targeted officials, as some of the families have a good relationship with the court’s chief prosecutor Karim Khan.

Foreign Minister Israel Katz said Sunday that Israel “expects the court to refrain” from issuing arrest warrants.

Foreign Minister Israel Katz tours the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial museum in Jerusalem, February 19, 2024. (Chaim Goldberg/Flash90)

“There is nothing more twisted than trying to prevent Israel from defending itself against a murderous enemy that openly calls for the destruction of Israel,” said Katz in a statement. “If the orders are issued, they will harm the commanders and soldiers of the IDF and give a boost to the terrorist organization Hamas and the radical Islamic axis led by Iran against which we are fighting.”

Katz stressed that Israel adheres to “all the laws of war,” and instructed Israel’s diplomatic missions around the world to prepare for a severe wave of antisemitism if the ICC issues arrest warrants.

Protesters block Begin Road in front of the Kirya Military Headquarters in Tel Aviv as they call for the release of the hostages, April 30, 2024. (Dafi Cohen/Pro-Democracy Protest Movement)

Hamas’s unprecedented October 7 onslaught on southern Israeli communities and army bases saw terrorists murder some 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and take 253 hostages.

Israel believes 129 hostages remain in Hamas captivity, although not all of them are alive. The IDF has confirmed the deaths of 34 while last week, Hamas released videos showing signs of life from Hersh Goldberg-Polin, Keith Siegel, and Omri Miran.

The Hamas-run health ministry in Gaza claims that Israel has killed more than 34,000 Palestinians in the ensuing war. That number cannot be independently verified and is believed to include both Hamas terror operatives and civilians, some of whom were killed as a consequence of the terror group’s own rocket misfires.

The IDF says it has killed over 13,000 terrorists in Gaza, in addition to some 1,000 who were killed inside Israel on and immediately following October 7. The army also says that 263 soldiers have been killed since the ground invasion began at the end of October. Together with soldiers killed on or immediately after October 7, the military’s casualties number over 600.

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