Arrest warrants for Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu: Is ICC prosecutor right?


Fact Box

  • The International Criminal Court (ICC), established in 2002, investigates and tries individuals charged with genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity, and the crime of aggression. 
  • On May 20, 2024, the ICC announced it was seeking arrest warrants for both Hamas leader, Yahya Sinwar, and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Biden said in a statement, 'there is no equivalence” between Israel and Hamas, and that they “reject the ICC’s application for arrest warrants against Israeli leaders.” 
  • Netanyahu denounced the charges as ‘absurd,’ noting “the State of Israel is not a party to the court and does not recognize its authority,” meaning it is therefore not bound by its rulings.
  • On October 7, 2023, the Palestinian/Arab terrorist organization Hamas launched a terrorist attack on Israel, resulting in the massacre of 1,200 Jewish citizens, which included civilians and families.
  • On May 8, 2024, the UN downsized the number of Gazan casualties previously reported by Hamas officials, reducing it from 34,000 to 24,000, with 14,000 of those terror operatives.  
  • A March 2024 Pew Research poll found that the majority of Americans, 58%, believe Israel has a valid reason to be fighting Hamas. Among polled Muslims, 49% believe Hamas fighting Israel is valid.

Elisa (No)

The charges against Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, if issued, would be disastrous, further isolating Israel and incorrectly rebuking Israel's military campaign. Calls to arrest Netanyahu are truly absurd, as they are supplying nearly half the water supply to Gaza, as well as food. Netanyahu defends himself by saying the comparison of Israel to Hamas is a distortion of reality. US President Biden agrees, stating there is 'no equivalence' between Hamas and Israel. 

The International Court of Justice has not approved this warrant for arrest, and it usually takes up to two months to even make such a decision. Countries like the US and UK do not support these potential arrest warrants, agreeing with Israel that they are 'outrageous.'

According to ABC News, Netanyahu explains that they had no starvation policy and, 'In fact, we have the opposite policy, to allow maximum humanitarian aid to get people out of harm's way…while Hamas is doing everything to keep them in harm's way at gunpoint.' In other words, the claims are fallacious.

Further, these warrants could dramatically reduce freedom of movement for Israeli leaders and could be interpreted as a threat against the sovereignty of both the US and Israel. These arrest warrants would only increase an already tense political landscape involving Israel and the Middle East. Ultimately, these warrants will not solve any problems but further escalate tensions and political divides. 

The US' strong reaction to the warrants should be warning enough. Hamas is a brutal terrorist organization, and its comparison to Israel is unwarranted, audacious, and unjust. In the end, the investigation is illegitimate and not credible. 

Sam (Yes) 

The ICC's criminal charges for Prime Minister Netanyahu include 'causing extermination, causing starvation as a method of war, including the denial of humanitarian relief supplies, deliberately targeting civilians in conflict.' UN members agree that Israel's military actions in and around Rafah have worsened the humanitarian crisis, citing the continued victimization of Palestinian civilians even after their displacement to the 'safe zone' of Rafah. In authorizing this military action, Netanyahu is responsible for the resulting starvation, lack of humanitarian aid, and civilian deaths of Palestinians. The ICC, a highly respected international court founded to hold political officials accountable for serious crimes like genocide and war crimes, will be justified in issuing arrest warrants for Prime Minister Netanyahu. The ICC plans to issue similar arrest warrants to Hamas leaders, showing the court's commitment to judicial neutrality.

While Netanyahu defends the continued attacks by citing the Right to Self-Defense, Israeli military actions have exceeded the scope of this legal right as outlined by the UN Charter. The members of the UN Security Council urged against Israel's military offensive in Rafah. The armed force that is unauthorized by the Security Council must fit the legal standards of self-defense. For the Right to Self-Defense to be legal, lethal force must be 'absolutely 'necessary' and 'proportionate' to ward off [the] illegal threat.' The necessity of Israel's continued use of lethal force is questionable because, among other reasons, the Security Council is committed to enforcing alternative forms of recourse, like a ceasefire. The proportionality of the Israeli offensive is also suspect, given the extreme collateral damage and civilian casualties. Similar actions by Israeli forces were deemed 'excessive' by the UN General Assembly in the past.

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