ICC exhibits hypocrisy through arrest warrant against Netanyahu

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International Criminal Court, ICC, Gaza, Benjamin Netanyahu, Yahya Sinwar, Karim Khan, Yoav Gallant

Israel will pay 120,000 shekels ($32,000) in legal fees to lawyers after the International Criminal Court (ICC) chief prosecutor, Karim Khan, requested arrest warrants against both Defense Minister Yoav Gallant and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu himself. Khan has also applied for warrants against the Hamas leader in the Gaza Strip Yahya Sinwar, as well as Hamas political leader Ismail Haniyeh, and Mohammed Deif, the organization’s military commander.

The Israeli officials are being charged with various war crimes and crimes against humanity, including employing the starvation of civilians as a warfare method. US President Joe Biden has described this decision as “outrageous”. In this, the ICC, also known as the Hague court, went one step further than the International Court of Justice (ICJ), which thus far has ruled that Israel should halt its military campaign against civilians in Rafah and has issued various injunctions in the same spirit. Netanyahu in turn has behaved in a manner that can only be described as arrogant and non-transparent, by showing contempt to all such requests. It is a diplomatic and political disaster that has also turned into further legal problems.

Netanyahu has recently dissolved his powerful war cabinet a few days after Benny Gantz, a key member of that body, presented his resignation. The cabinet, which directed the conflict in Gaza, has been under a lot of scrutiny over its alleged intentional attacks on civilians (thus causing an unprecedented high number of civilian casualties) amid a major humanitarian crisis which many have described as a genocide campaign.

Dorit Beinisch, retired jurist and former President of the Supreme Court of Israel, claimed this week, while giving a talk at a Reichman University conference, that the incumbent Israeli government has weakened the independence of the country’s judiciary to the extent of provoking both the International Court of Justice (ICJ) and the International Criminal Court (ICC) into coming after Israel for war crimes. According to her, the “ongoing judicial overhaul” has led jurists internationally to doubt the Israeli legal system’s independence and trustworthiness. This, she reasons, may have indirectly weighed as a factor in their decision to go after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Yoav Gallant. Both the ICJ and the ICC claim that the country’s war cabinet is acting without oversight. Netanyahu opposes any such state inquiry for he fears that could undermine his ability to act as Prime Minister.

As I wrote before, the Israeli Prime Minister’s presumed personal and political interests in the perpetuation of the ongoing military occupation of Palestine has been raised by various analysts. Marc Champion, for instance, writing for Bloomberg, stressed the fact that Netanyahu is “fighting corruption charges in court” (it goes without saying that it is indeed usually trickier to investigate incumbent leaders). Moreover, he is expected to “face a political reckoning over Oct. 7’s security failures as soon as the war in Gaza ends.” Therefore, writes Champion, “under cover of the country’s blinding rage and deep yearning for long-term security, Netanyahu is fighting to secure his own political survival.” Private as well as business interests (even involving shady deals in some cases) do shape, to some degree, foreign policy decisions, as one can clearly see also in the case of Ukraine.

Considering the unprecedented extent of the humanitarian crisis in Palestine, what should strike any concerned observer is the blatant double standard with regards to nations involved in military campaigns.

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s controversial indictment last year was indeed applauded by the American establishment. Even before it was issued, in 2022, S.Res.546, a bipartisan, unanimous resolution by the US Senate (which was agreed to without amendment) supported the ICC. It was a remarkable development, considering that the US Congress in 2002 passed into law the American Service members Protection Act, better known as  the “Hague Invasion Act”. It authorized the use of military force to “liberate” any American citizen being held by the ICC. More recently, former President Donald Trump okayed sanctions to retaliate against an ICC investigation into American war crimes in Afghanistan. Washington even threatened to arrest the court’s judges over this.

On the ICC’s decision on Putin last year, US President Joe Biden also applauded it and said that the warrant “makes a very strong point.” The more recent application for arrest warrants against Israeli leaders, in contrast, is, in Biden’s words, “outrageous.” Moreover, on June 4, the US House of Representatives passed a bill to impose sanctions against the ICC. Although condemning the ICC’s ruling and having initially said the contrary, Biden has now announced he won’t go so far as to support sanctions against the court. Netanyahu responded by saying he is “surprised and disappointed.”

It remains to be seen how the Biden administration will deal with the matter – and how the coming presidential elections will change things if at all. In any case, as I wrote before,  it is increasingly clear that Washington is always ready to hypocritically applaud the Hague court, as long as it only persecutes its geopolitical rivals (or African leaders) and never dares to point its finger to any US war criminal – if so, Washington will be willing to literally threaten the court and its judges with invasion and arrest.

Last week Washington in fact lifted a ban on training and supplying weapons to the infamous Azov regiment, whose links to neo-Nazism and extremism are well known. This may seem unrelated, but it is in fact yet another instance of the same cynical disregard for human rights or any coherence. Much is talked about the economic and geopolitical decline of the American superpower. The erosion of its supposed moral authority, however, is also a very concrete phenomenon, with implications for soft power, and credibility – and may even have weighed as a factor in the rising Global South trend towards non-alignment. The stubborn American support for the Jewish state’s disastrous campaign lies at the root of several international crises today, including the Houthi imbroglio at the Red Sea.

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