May 31, 2024 - Politics & Policy

Biden faces new break with pro-Israel Democrats

Rep. Josh Gottheimer, wearing a blue suit and speaking in a TV studio.

Rep. Josh Gottheimer. Photo: Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images.

A group of 19 pro-Israel House Democrats is pushing back on the White House's opposition to sanctions against the International Criminal Court for its top prosecutor's decision to seek arrest warrants against senior Israeli officials.

Why it matters: It's another split between Biden and his party's moderate, pro-Israel wing which could bubble up to the surface next week as Republicans prepare a vote on ICC sanctions.

Driving the news: In a letter to Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, the lawmakers, led by Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-N.J.), said they are "deeply outraged" by the ICC's arrest warrant application.

  • "We urge the Administration to consult with Congress to immediately impose sanctions against the ICC's Chief Prosecutor Karim Khan and any other officials who have demonstrated undue bias in their actions," they wrote.
  • The letter, first reported by Jewish Insider, was signed by 19 Democrats and six Republicans.
  • The Treasury and State Departments did not immediately respond to Axios' requests for comment.

The backdrop: The letter comes after White House spokesperson John Kirby said on Tuesday that sanctions are "not the right answer" to respond to the ICC's prosecution.

  • White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said sanctions "are not an effective or appropriate tool" and that the administration "will work with Congress on other options to address the ICC overreach."
  • The statements were met with harsh criticism from House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.), who had been pushing for sanctions.

What to watch: The letter signals that next week's sanctions vote is likely to result in another split between some pro-Israel Democrats and the rest of their party.

  • It's a divide that has often been on display since the Oct. 7 attack, with Republicans repeatedly holding votes on Israel and antisemitism-related bills that the White House and Democratic leadership oppose.
  • It is unclear whether the administration or Democratic leadership will whip against the sanctions bill – as they did last week with a bill to force the shipment of weapons to Israel.
Go deeper