Apr 29, 2024 - Politics & Policy

Scoop: Netanyahu tells Biden he's worried about possible ICC arrest warrants

Biden and Netanyahu

Biden with Netanyahu on Oct. 18, 2023. Photo: GPO/ Handout/Anadolu via Getty Images

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu asked President Biden Sunday to help prevent the International Criminal Court from issuing arrest warrants for senior Israeli officials in connection with the war in Gaza, two Israeli officials told Axios.

Why it matters: Israeli officials have grown increasingly concerned over the last two weeks that the ICC is preparing to issue arrest warrants for Netanyahu, Defense Minister Yoav Gallant and Israel Defense Forces chief of staff Herzi Halevi.

Behind the scenes: The officials said Netanyahu expressed his concern to Biden in a phone call on Sunday, where the two leaders also discussed hostage negotiations, Israel's defense against Iran's missile attack, and the need to increase humanitarian aid to Gaza, according to a White House readout.

  • The ICC, which is based in The Hague, Netherlands, has been investigating possible war crimes by both Israeli forces and Palestinian militants dating back to the 2014 Israel-Hamas war.
  • U.S. officials said they do not have a clear indication whether the ICC is going to issue arrest warrants, but said the prosecutor's office is under pressure from NGOs and several ICC member states to do so.

What they're saying: "Under my leadership, Israel will never accept any attempt by the ICC to undermine its inherent right of self-defense," Netanyahu said in a statement on X Friday.

  • "While the ICC will not affect Israel's actions, it would set a dangerous precedent that threatens the soldiers and officials of all democracies fighting savage terrorism and wanton aggression," he added.
  • A spokesperson for the White House National Security Council declined to comment on the contents of Netanyahu's call with Biden, but told Axios: "As we have publicly said many times, the ICC has no jurisdiction in this situation and we do not support its investigation."

Between the lines: In March 2023, the ICC issued an arrest warrant for Russian President Vladimir Putin over his alleged involvement in the abduction of Ukrainian children and teenagers.

The big picture: The International Court of Justice, a separate body also located in The Hague, is hearing a case brought by South Africa that alleges Israel is committing genocide with its military campaign in Gaza.

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