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‘No genocide’ – US, most Western nations stand by Israel on ICC warrants

France and Belgium join South Africa in support of ICC

U.S. President Joe Biden delivers remarks, at a celebration for Jewish American Heritage Month, in the Rose Garden at the White House, in Washington, May 20, 2024. (Photo: REUTERS/Leah Millis)

The United States and most major Western nations criticized the announcement by the International Criminal Court (ICC) that it would seek arrest warrants against Israeli leaders for war crimes allegedly committed in the Gaza War.

Despite the frosty relations with Israel’s government recently, several U.S. officials, including President Joe Biden, strongly expressed support for Israel on the issue.

“Contrary to allegations made against Israel in the ICC, what’s happening is not genocide. We reject that,” Biden said on Monday.

He stressed that the United States “stand[s] with Israel to take out Sinwar and the rest of the butchers of Hamas,” referring to Hamas’ top leader in Gaza, Yahya Sinwar, who is also the subject of an arrest warrant request by the ICC.

In an earlier statement, Biden said the move was “outrageous,” adding, “Whatever this prosecutor might imply, there is no equivalence – none – between Israel and Hamas.”

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken published a detailed statement, stressing the Biden administration “fundamentally rejects” ICC chief prosecutor Karim Khan’s decision and called into question the legitimacy and credibility of the international court's investigation.

“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 said.

The U.S. secretary also emphasized that Israel was set to cooperate with the court and was preparing for a visit by its representatives when Khan unexpectedly went live on air on CNN to announce his decision.

“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… these and other circumstances call into question the legitimacy and credibility of this investigation,” Blinken said.

Two Israeli officials confirmed Blinken’s comments, according to Axios. They added that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had even allowed Kahn to enter specific areas in Gaza and Israel as part of his investigation.

U.S. State Department Spokesperson Matthew Miller declined to comment on possible U.S. sanctions against the ICC following its announcement.

Representatives of many other Western nations agreed with the U.S. and criticized Khan’s statement.

A spokesperson for British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said: “This action is not helpful in relation to reaching a pause in the fighting, getting hostages out or getting humanitarian aid in.”

“The UK, as with other countries, does not yet recognize Palestine as a state and Israel is not a state party to the Rome Statute,” he stated, emphasizing that the ICC therefore lacks jurisdiction. He declined to comment on whether the UK would arrest Netanyahu if a warrant were issued

Contrary to the U.S. and the United Kingdom, most other European leaders underscored their respect for the ICC’s authority but rejected the equivalence drawn between Netanyahu, Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, and the three Hamas leaders mentioned in the ICC’s statement.

“That the leader of the terrorist organization Hamas, whose declared goal is the extinction of the State of Israel, is being mentioned at the same time as the democratically elected representatives of that very State is non-comprehensible,” said Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehammer.

Italian Foreign Minister Antonio Tajani said it was “truly singular, I would say unacceptable, to equate a government legitimately elected by the people in a democracy with a terrorist organization that is the cause of everything that is happening in the Middle East.”

Germany’s Foreign Ministry released a tepid statement, stressing that the ICC’s “pre-trial chamber now has to decide on the chief prosecutor's applications for the issuance of arrest warrants,” while lamenting the “false impression of an equation” between Hamas and Israel.

On the other side, France and Belgium supported the ICC’s announcement.

“France has been warning for many months of the need for strict compliance with international humanitarian law, and in particular of the unacceptable level of civilian casualties in the Gaza Strip and inadequate humanitarian access,” the French Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

While condemning Hamas, the statement also read, “France supports the International Criminal Court, its independence and the fight against impunity in all situations.”

“Crimes committed in Gaza must be prosecuted at the highest level, regardless of the perpetrators,” wrote Belgium’s Foreign Minister Hadja Lahbib.

She added that the request for arrest warrants was “an important step in the investigation of the situation in Palestine.”

Unsurprisingly, the government of South Africa, which is currently advancing a case accusing Israel of genocide against Gaza at the International Court of Justice (ICJ), also praised the ICC’s decision.

“The law must be applied equally to all in order to uphold the international rule of law, ensure accountability for those that commit heinous crimes and protect the rights of victims,” the office of South African President Cyril Ramaphosa said in a statement.

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

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