Biden slams "outrageous" ICC bid to arrest Netanyahu for Gaza war crimes

Washington DC - President Joe Biden on Monday denounced an "outrageous" application by the International Criminal Court's prosecutor for an arrest warrant for Israel's prime minister and defense minister.

US President Joe Biden (r.) denounced the ICC's application for an arrest warrant for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
US President Joe Biden (r.) denounced the ICC's application for an arrest warrant for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.  © Collage: Brendan Smialowski & ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS / AFP

Secretary of State Antony Blinken separately warned that efforts to secure a ceasefire in Gaza could be harmed by the move by the Hague-based court.

ICC Prosecutor Karim Khan is seeking arrest warrants against Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, as well as top Hamas leaders, on suspicion of war crimes and crimes against humanity.

"The ICC prosecutor's application for arrest warrants against Israeli leaders is outrageous. And let me be clear: whatever this prosecutor might imply, there is no equivalence – none – between Israel and Hamas," Biden said in a statement.

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"We will always stand with Israel against threats to its security."

Neither the US nor Israel is a member of the ICC, and both have rejected its jurisdiction.

Biden did not comment on the warrant requests for Yahya Sinwar, the head of the Palestinian Hamas movement in Gaza, and Ismail Haniyeh, the movement's political chief.

Biden's expression of support for Netanyahu over the ICC bid comes despite recent disagreements with Israel over its conduct in the Gaza war.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken says ICC charges could hinder Gaza ceasefire

Secretary of State Antony Blinken warned that efforts to secure a ceasefire in Gaza could be harmed by the ICC's move to prosecute.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken warned that efforts to secure a ceasefire in Gaza could be harmed by the ICC's move to prosecute.  © Brendan Smialowski / AFP

Washington recently withheld a shipment of arms to Israel in a bid to warn off an offensive in the southern city of Rafah.

Top diplomat Blinken denounced the ICC application as "shameful" and warned it could harm ongoing efforts for a ceasefire in Israel's war on Hamas following the militant group's October 7 attack on Israel.

"The United States fundamentally rejects the announcement today from the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court," Blinken said in a statement.

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"We reject the prosecutor's equivalence of Israel with Hamas. It is shameful."

Blinken added that "this decision does nothing to help, and could jeopardize, ongoing efforts to reach a ceasefire agreement that would get hostages out and surge humanitarian assistance in."

US lawmakers were reportedly considering a legislative response to the move, which has provoked bipartisan fury among Republicans and Democrats.

The White House has previously refused to comment on whether the Biden administration could take retaliatory action, including sanctions against the ICC if it targeted Israel.

Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said on May 3 that she would not say "what could be next and if we would weigh in if they were to move forward" with charges.

US backs ICC prosecution in Ukraine war despite Israel opposition

In 2020, the administration of then-president Donald Trump targeted the ICC with sanctions over its investigation into Afghanistan, but the Biden administration later lifted them.

Washington's ambiguous position over the court is reflected by the fact that it has backed the ICC's attempt to prosecute Russian President Vladimir Putin over the invasion of Ukraine.

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said Monday that the US will keep assisting the ICC on its investigation into alleged war crimes in Ukraine despite denouncing the Israel move.

"Regarding the question of whether or not we will continue to provide support to the ICC with respect to crimes that are committed in Ukraine, yes, we continue that work," Austin told reporters.

Cover photo: Collage: Brendan Smialowski & ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS / AFP

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