May 2, 2024 - World

Scoop: Senators meet with ICC over concerns about possible Israel arrest warrants

A general view of the International Criminal Court (ICC) building in The Hague, Netherlands on April 30, 2024.

The International Criminal Court building in The Hague, Netherlands. Photo: Selman Aksunger/Anadolu via Getty Images

A bipartisan group of senators held a virtual meeting on Wednesday with senior officials at the International Criminal Court to express their concern about possible arrest warrants being issued for Israeli leaders over the war in Gaza, according to three sources who were in the meeting or briefed about it.

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

Driving the news: The ICC, which is based in The Hague, Netherlands, has been investigating since 2021 possible war crimes by both Israeli forces and Palestinian militants dating back to the 2014 Israel-Hamas war.

  • That investigation has been extended to the Oct. 7 attacks and the war that has been raging in Gaza since then, according to the prosecutor's office.
  • Over the last few weeks, Israel has told the U.S. that it has information suggesting Palestinian Authority officials are pressing the ICC prosecutor to issue arrest warrants against Israeli leaders, Israeli officials said.
  • The Israeli government warned the Biden administration that if the ICC issues arrest warrants against Israeli leaders, it will take retaliatory steps against the Palestinian Authority that could lead to its collapse.
  • The issue of potential ICC arrest warrants came up during a call between Netanyahu and President Biden last Sunday, with Netanyahu asking Biden for help, Axios reported earlier this week.
  • Republican lawmakers threatened to pass legislation against the ICC if it moves forward with the arrest warrants, which the Biden administration has said it opposes.

The latest: The ICC prosecutor's office on Friday issued a statement calling for the end to "all attempts to impede, intimidate or improperly influence its officials" saying they undermined the Court's "independence and impartiality."

Behind the scenes: Israeli officials said Netanyahu, who is extremely nervous about the possible arrest warrants, spoke to several Republican and Democratic senators in recent days and asked them to press the ICC prosecutor not to move forward with issuing arrest warrants.

  • Netanyahu's outreach to senators was first reported on the Israeli website Ynet.
  • Sources with knowledge of the meeting between senators and senior ICC officials on Wednesday didn't disclose the identity of the senators or the ICC officials, saying the meeting was confidential.
  • One source familiar with the meeting said it was an opportunity for the senators to voice concerns about how the ICC investigation regarding the war in Gaza is being conducted.

What they're saying: The office of the ICC prosecutor said, "Confidentiality is a crucial aspect of the work of the Prosecutor. Therefore, we do not publicly discuss specifics related to the office's activities and engagements."

Editor's note: This story has been updated with the statement issued Friday from the ICC prosecutor's office.

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