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US lawmakers rebuke ICC prosecutor’s decision to seek arrest warrants for Israeli, Hamas officials

There was strong backlash on Monday from Capitol Hill following the announcement by the top prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) to pursue arrest warrants for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, as well as three senior Hamas officials.

Anadolu Agency WORLD
Published May 21,2024

The decision by the top prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) to seek arrest warrants for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, in addition to three senior Hamas officials, drew stern criticism from Capitol Hill on Monday.

Karim Khan announced earlier Monday that he has applied for arrest warrants against Netanyahu; Gallant; the head of Hamas' Politburo, Ismail Haniyeh; its top official in Gaza, Yahya Sinwar; and the head of Hamas' military wing, Mohammed Deif. The decision on whether any of the warrants will ultimately be issued lies with a panel of three ICC judges which will assess the evidence presented by Khan's office.

Senior Republicans on Capitol Hill had threatened Khan, his senior officials and their families with reprisals if the ICC advanced arrest warrants for Israeli officials, and reports indicated that members in the House and Senate are working to formulate legislation to enact penalties.

While a formal announcement has not yet been made, members in both chambers reacted harshly against Khan's decision.

"This outrageous decision is truly a slap in the face to the independent judiciary in Israel, which is renowned for their independence," said Sen. Lindsey Graham.

"I will feverishly work with colleagues on both sides of the aisle in both chambers to levy damning sanctions against the ICC," he added.

Sen. Jim Risch, the top Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said Khan's decision "is absurd."

"The fact that the court applied for warrants for Hamas and Israeli officials at the same time provides a false moral equivalency between their actions. Israel has responded to reckless Hamas aggression with extreme caution for civilians while Hamas raped and murdered Israeli and American civilians," he said in a statement. "Today's actions have hurt the credibility of the court and seriously harmed legitimate accountability efforts where true war crimes are occurring, like Ukraine, Syria and across Africa."

Representative Ritchie Torres, a stalwart proponent of Israel among his fellow Democrats who backed punitive action against the ICC if arrest warrants are issued, said Monday's action "is not law but politics."

"It is 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," he said on X.


Unlike Torres, progressive Democrats lauded the prosecutor's action.

Sen. Bernie Sanders said the ICC prosecutor "is right to take these actions."

"These arrest warrants may or may not be carried out, but it is imperative that the global community uphold international law," he said in a statement. "Without these standards of decency and morality, this planet may rapidly descend into anarchy, never-ending wars, and barbarism."

Representative Mark Pocan said on X that should Netanyahu attempt to address Congress in Washington, "I would be more than glad to show the ICC the way to the House floor to issue that warrant. Ditto for Hamas leader."

"Ceasefire. No offensive weapons. Food, water & medicine must get through," he added.

Representative Ilhan Omar is also overjoyed about the decision.

"The ICC must be allowed to conduct its work independently and without interference," Omar said in a statement.

She described the allegations from the Prosecutor's office as "significant," saying: "It has long been my belief that the absence of credible processes for justice are a key reason the conflict between Israel and Palestinians continues to escalate."

Democrat Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, for her part, said Monday that "I think my role as much as possible broadly is ... that we cease U.S. funding for human rights abuses, war crimes and violations abroad."

"And what we see happening in Gaza, in the West Bank and throughout Palestine has been a broad-and as we've seen even from this morning that with the ICC's designation as well of both Sinwar and Netanyahu-that this is happening, and it's occurring this should not happen with U.S. resources," she added.