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Bipartisan US senate bill proposes sanctions over ICC arrest warrants for Israeli and US leaders

U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) speaking at a press conference about the United States restricting weapons for Israel, at the U.S. Capitol. (Photo: Michael Brochstein/Sipa USA)

A bipartisan group of U.S. senators is pushing for legislation that will impose sanctions on anyone involved in the arrest warrant issued by the International Criminal Court (ICC) against Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Yoav Gallant.

The bill was spearheaded by Republican Senator Lindsey Graham and is likely to pass the House but could face opposition in the Democratic-controlled Senate.

“We will continue to work in a bipartisan manner to strenuously object to the ICC’s actions against our ally, Israel, and take appropriate steps to help Israel and protect American personnel from future ICC action,” read a joint statement from Ben Cardin (D), chair of the Foreign Relations Committee, as well as Democrat senators Richard Blumenthal, Jeanne Shaheen and John Fetterman and also signed by Republican senators Graham, Jim Risch, Katie Britt and John Thune.

The White House opposed the targeting by the ICC against the Trump administration, however, U.S. President Joe Biden has recently spoken out against The Hague’s initiative against Israel.

During a congressional meeting on Tuesday, U.S. State Secretary Antony Blinken said the administration is prepared to work with Congress “on a bipartisan basis to find an appropriate response” to the ICC's charges against the Israeli leaders.

The proposed bill includes sanctions for ICC Chief Prosecutor Karim Khan, his office staff and the judges handling the case. American lawmakers are reportedly considering an extension of sanctions to the families of those involved in the case.

According to U.S. officials, the bill aims to discourage the ICC from issuing arrest warrants against Israel and the United States. Khan previously warned that threats against him and the ICC are criminal offenses, following a threatening letter he received from a bipartisan group of Congress members regarding the arrest warrants for Israeli officials.

U.S. Ambassador to Israel Jack Lew also addressed the ICC prosecutor's request to issue arrest warrants against Netanyahu and Gallant, alongside Hamas leaders Yahya Sinwar, Mohammed Deif and Ismail Haniyeh.

"The attempt to draw a parallel between Hamas' attack on 10/7 and actions taken by a democratic state is inappropriate," Lew said at an Israel Democracy Institute (IDI) conference on Tuesday.

"Israel is fighting an enemy that hides behind women and children. Since my arrival here, I don’t think a day has passed without working with either the Prime Minister or the Defense Minister, or someone in their close circle, on humanitarian aid," Lew said.

"When I arrived in November, it wasn't a popular thing; it was a raw wound. I think we have unprecedentedly highlighted how much more needs to be done. Since the war began, the Kerem Shalom crossing has remained open. New crossings have been opened, Ashdod port has been used, and the police have thwarted attempts to stop aid convoys. It’s important to remember where this started – it started with Hamas’ attack, with its fighters hiding behind women and children," the U.S. ambassador added.

Former Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. Michael Oren also voiced opposition to the ICC’s recent request, calling on the U.S. to invoke the American Servicemembers' Protection Act (ASPA) of 2001 to shield Israel and protect Netanyahu, Gallant and Israeli soldiers from prosecution by the ICC in The Hague.

Under ASPA, the U.S. commits to protecting any ally targeted by ICC arrest warrants or indictments. This includes offering legal support to Israeli officials, implementing economic sanctions on nations that cooperate with ICC mandates, freezing assets of ICC officials and leveraging American companies and banks to enforce these sanctions.

On Tuesday, Blinken issued a statement rejecting the ICC's equivalence of Israeli leaders with the leaders of Hamas.

“The United States fundamentally rejects the announcement today from the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) that he is applying for arrest warrants for senior Israeli officials, together with warrants for Hamas terrorists."

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."

The All Israel News Staff is a team of journalists in Israel.

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