Netanyahu condemns ICC arrest warrant application as unjust comparison with Hamas

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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu

21st May 2024 – (Jerusalem) Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has vehemently rejected a request from the International Criminal Court’s (ICC) prosecutor for his arrest warrant concerning alleged war crimes in Gaza, labelling the comparison with Hamas as “disgusting”. The ICC’s move has sparked significant controversy and geopolitical debate.

On Monday, ICC prosecutor Karim Khan named Netanyahu and Defence Minister Yoav Gallant, alongside three senior Hamas leaders, in a bid for arrest warrants over accusations of war crimes and crimes against humanity. The allegations against Israeli leaders include severe charges such as “wilful killing”, “extermination and/or murder”, and “starvation”.

In a forceful rebuttal, Netanyahu criticized the moral parity drawn by the ICC between the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF), which he called “the most moral army in the world”, and Hamas, which he described as “monsters”. He compared the ICC’s actions to equating historical figures such as President George W. Bush with Osama Bin Laden, and Franklin D. Roosevelt with Adolf Hitler, in their respective conflicts.

The backdrop to this legal confrontation is the recent intense conflict in Gaza, triggered by a major assault by Hamas on Israel that resulted in over 1,170 deaths, predominantly civilians, as per Israeli official statistics. During the attack, Hamas militants also took 252 hostages, 124 of whom remain captive.

In response, Israel’s aggressive counter-offensive has led to a tragic toll of at least 35,562 deaths in Gaza, again mostly civilians, according to figures from the health ministry of the Hamas-controlled region.

The proposed ICC arrest warrants have generated a whirlwind of international responses, with leaders from the US and UK criticizing the move as “outrageous” and “unhelpful”. The debate extends into the appropriateness of the charges themselves. Jonathan Panikoff, director of the Atlantic Council’s Scowcroft Middle East Security Initiative, expressed on CNA’s Asia First that while the ICC aims to bring those accused of severe crimes to justice, the critical question remains whether the actions of Netanyahu and Gallant indeed rise to the level of intending to cause a humanitarian crisis.