Israel calls ICC prosecutor's bid for PM arrest warrant a 'historical disgrace'

AFP , Tuesday 21 May 2024

Israel on Monday slammed as a "historical disgrace" an application by the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court for an arrest warrant for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

A protester holds a poster of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
A protester holds a poster of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during a rally commemorating the 76th anniversary of the mass expulsion of the Palestinians from what is now Israel in 1948, often called the Nakba or Arabic for catastrophe, outside the US Embassy in Jakarta, Indonesia, Friday, May 17, 2024. AP

The prosecutor, Karim Khan, applied for arrest warrants against Netanyahu and Defence Minister Yoav Gallant as well as top Hamas leaders on suspicion of war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Foreign Minister Israel Katz said that Khan "in the same breath mentions the Prime Minister and the Minister of Defence of the State of Israel alongside Hamas -- a historical disgrace that will be remembered forever".

The prosecutor said he was seeking warrants against Netanyahu and Gallant for crimes including "wilful killing", "extermination and/or murder" and "starvation".

Katz denounced the move as a "scandalous decision" that amounted to "a frontal attack... on the victims of October 7" when Hamas launched the Al-Aqsa Flood Operation.

The minister added that Israel would establish a special committee to fight the ICC prosecutor's efforts to secure a warrant, and also embark on a diplomatic push against it.

Katz said he planned to "speak with foreign ministers in leading countries of the world so that they oppose the prosecutor's decision and announce that, even if orders are issued, they do not intend to enforce them on the leaders of the State of Israel".

Israeli President Isaac Herzog criticized Khan's bid as an example of how the "international judicial system is in danger of collapsing".

"This one-sided move represents a unilateral political step that emboldens terrorists around the world," he said in a statement.

"Any attempt to draw parallels between these atrocious terrorists and a democratically elected government of Israel... is outrageous and cannot be accepted by anyone."

Israel's war cabinet minister Benny Gantz meanwhile said the ICC prosecutor's bid was a "historical crime".

On Saturday, Gantz had criticized Netanyahu for his handling of the war in Gaza, threatening to resign from the war cabinet unless the premier approved a post-war plan for the Palestinian territory.

* This story was edited by Ahram Online.

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