Netanyahu’s office hosts emergency talks on feared ICC warrants for PM, ministers

Israeli officials confirm meeting held on how to prevent potential arrest warrants for Israeli leaders and IDF officers, a prospect that TV report says Israel is increasingly worried by

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meets with Golani soldiers near the border with Gaza on October 19, 2023. (Avi Ohayon/ GPO)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meets with Golani soldiers near the border with Gaza on October 19, 2023. (Avi Ohayon/ GPO)

Israel is increasingly worried by the prospect of the International Criminal Court in The Hague issuing arrest warrants against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other Israeli political and military leaders for alleged breaches of international law in Gaza, Israeli television reported Thursday.

According to Channel 12 news, three ministers and several government legal experts held an “emergency discussion” at the Prime Minister’s Office on Tuesday about how to fend off the potential warrants.

The meeting was convened after Jerusalem received messages indicating that such warrants could be issued in the near future, the report said, without citing any sources.

Israeli officials confirmed to The Times of Israel that the meeting took place and said there were also discussions about the possibility that warrants could be issued against IDF officers.

Netanyahu raised the matter in his meetings this week with Britain’s Foreign Secretary David Cameron and Germany’s Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock, and sought their help, the TV report said.

The television report said that during Tuesday’s discussion, which was attended by Katz, Justice Minister Yariv Levin and Strategic Affairs Minister Ron Dermer, it was decided that Israel would reach out to the court and “diplomatic figures with influence” in an effort to prevent the warrants from being issued.

An exterior view of the International Criminal Court in The Hague, Netherlands, December 6, 2022. (AP Photo/Peter Dejong, File)

Jerusalem reportedly feared the arrest warrants would be sought due to the humanitarian crisis amid the fighting in the Gaza Strip, with countries that accuse Israel of breaching international law and the Fourth Geneva Convention said to be leading the effort.

In February, a delegation of relatives of hostages being held by Hamas filed a war crimes complaint with the ICC against the terrorist organization’s leaders. The accusations in the filing included kidnapping, crimes of sexual violence, torture and other serious allegations.

The court’s chief prosecutor, Karim Khan, visited Israel in December on an official trip, as Israel does not consider itself bound by the ICC. After touring some of the towns attacked by Hamas on October 7, 2023, and hearing testimonies from survivors, Khan said he had witnessed “scenes of calculated cruelty” and that it was clear to him the victims had been targeted because of their identities.

He also said he felt duty-bound to work with the court’s prosecutors to open investigations into Hamas’s actions on October 7.

In 2019, the ICC announced that it would be launching a probe into alleged war crimes committed by both sides during the 2014 Protective Edge Israel-Hamas conflict, Israeli settlement policy and the Israeli response to protests at the Gaza border. The probe was formally opened on March 3, 2021, and was met with strong criticism from Israel.

Karim Khan, chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, addresses a UN Security Council meeting on July 13, 2023, at United Nations headquarters. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)

During Hamas’s October 7 onslaught on southern Israel, terrorists murdered some 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and kidnapped 253 men, women and children of all ages.

It is believed that 129 of the hostages remain in Gaza — not all of them alive — after 105 civilians were released from Hamas captivity during a weeklong truce in late November, and four hostages were released prior to that.

Three hostages have been rescued by troops alive, and the bodies of 12 hostages have also been recovered, including three mistakenly killed by the military.

The IDF has confirmed the deaths of 34 of those still held by Hamas, citing new intelligence and findings obtained by troops operating in Gaza.

One more person has been listed as missing since October 7, and their fate is still unknown.

The Hamas-run health ministry in Gaza claims that more than 33,000 Palestinians have been killed by Israel in the war, but the number cannot be independently verified as it is believed to include both Hamas terrorists and civilians, some of whom were killed as a consequence of the terror group’s own rocket misfires.

IDF troops operate at the entrance to a tunnel in the central Gaza Strip, in a handout image published April 18, 2024. (Israel Defense Forces)

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.

Meanwhile, 260 troops IDF troops have been killed in the ground invasion of Gaza, bringing the total number of soldiers killed since October 7 to 604.

Jeremy Sharon contributed to this report.

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