Lawmakers Blast ICC Decision on Netanyahu…

Following the announcement by the International Criminal Court that it would pursue an arrest warrant for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in relation to his conduct of the continuing conflict in Gaza, Republicans have threatened retaliation.

Netanyahu, Yahya Sinwar, Mohammed Diab Ibrahim Al-Masri, the head of Hamas’ military branch, and Yoav Gallant, the Israeli defense minister, are all named in warrant applications submitted by ICC top prosecutor Karim Khan.

Republicans on important foreign policy committees condemned the decision and reiterated earlier this month their warning to punish the international tribunal—which neither the US nor Israel are members of—if it prosecuted Israeli leaders.

“In the absence of leadership from the White House, Congress is reviewing all options, including sanctions, to punish the ICC and ensure its leadership faces consequences if they proceed,” expressed Speaker Mike Johnson in a Monday statement. “Israel is fighting a just war for survival, and the ICC is attempting to equate Israeli officials to the evil terrorists who perpetrated the October 7th massacre.”

Republican Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina made a similar promise across the hall, pledging to “feverishly work with colleagues on both sides of the aisle in both chambers to levy damning sanctions against the ICC.”

Arkansas Republican and Senate Armed Services Committee member Tom Cotton issued a statement stating, “Khan’s kangaroo court has no jurisdiction in Israel to pursue these anti-Semitic and politically motivated ‘charges.'” Cotton continued, saying, “I look forward to making sure neither Khan, his associates nor their families will ever set foot again in the United States.”

The top Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Jim Risch (R-Idaho), called the move “absurd” and said that it establishes a “false moral equivalency” between the actions of Hamas and Israeli officials by pursuing arrest warrants against both groups at the same time.

The office of Speaker Mike Johnson has not yet commented on whether or not the House would adopt any of the numerous Republican-introduced proposals that would take action against the ICC.

It wasn’t just Republicans who were outraged. White House spokesman Joe Biden characterized the news as “outrageous” and warned that the decision “does nothing to help, and could jeopardize, ongoing efforts to reach a cease-fire agreement that would get hostages out and surge humanitarian assistance in.”

“Whenever Israel faces dangers to its security, we will always be there to support it,” Biden reaffirmed.

Since Israel is not a member of the ICC, the White House has made it clear that it is opposed to the court’s inquiry into the Jewish state. Another assessment that failed to conclude that Israel’s attack in Gaza breached international humanitarian law was released earlier this month by the State Department.

Lawmakers from the Democratic Party who represent sizable Jewish American populations also voiced their disapproval of the ruling. In an X post, New York Democratic Representative Ritchie Torres condemned the warrants, calling them “not justice but rather retribution against Israel for the original sin of existing as a Jewish State and the subsequent sin of defending itself amid the deadliest day for Jews since the Holocaust.”

But many leftists applauded the decision. I would be happy to show the International Criminal Court the way to the House floor in order to issue that warrant if Netanyahu were to address Congress. Similarly, the leader of Hamas,” Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Wis.), who was once the chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, written on X. A small number of Democratic progressives have voiced their approval of an arrest warrant in the past.

According to Trita Parsi, executive vice president of the Quincy Institute think tank, an arrest warrant could pose a significant challenge for the Biden administration. This is because it would effectively label both Netanyahu and Gallant, whom the Biden team has considered as a possible moderate alternative to Netanyahu, as being on par with Vladimir Putin.

The International Criminal Court (ICC) issued an arrest warrant for Russian President Vladimir Putin in March 2023, restricting his travel abroad, on charges related to the forced transfer of children to Russia following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Concerns about potential defiance of the ICC during Netanyahu’s possible congressional address have been raised by Johnson’s announcement that he intends to extend an invitation to the Israeli prime minister.

It is possible that the Biden administration will not be confronted with this matter during the war as the arrest warrants pertaining to the Israel-Gaza conflict have not been issued yet. After months of attempting, talks between Israel and Hamas have lately stopped in their pursuit of a cease-fire agreement.

Judges from the ICC will review Khan’s filing and decide whether or not the evidence he presented is sufficient to officially issue the warrants. It may take a few months for that to happen.

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