Point-blank: Political stupidity

Mohamed Salmawy
Tuesday 28 May 2024

A luncheon at the Bibliotheca Alexandrina, at the invitation of the library’s director, Ahmed Zayed, brought me together with Miguel Angel Moratinos, under-secretary-general for the UN Alliance of Civilisations (UNAOC), whom I had not seen since he served as the Spanish foreign minister many years ago.


Perhaps inevitably, the conversation turned to the decision of the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) to apply for arrest warrants for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his Defence Minister Yoav Gallant. Moratinos said that we owe that decision to a strongly worded letter sent by a dozen US senators to ICC Prosecutor Karim Khan threatening to “target” not only him, but also his staff, associates, and even family members if he proceeds with the request for an arrest warrant for Netanyahu.

The ICC prosecutor, who is a British barrister, faced such enormous pressures to keep him from proceeding with his request that he would probably have been compelled to cave into them. However, Moratinos explained, those pressures occurred behind the scenes and were never publicised. This was not the case with the senators’ letter which appeared in main US news outlets and word of which quickly spread around the world because of its sheer crudeness and brazen intervention in the international court. Now, if Khan had refrained from applying for a warrant to arrest Netanyahu, he would inevitably be seen to have succumbed to the American threat, which would have put paid to the rest of his political career. Therefore, because that letter had been so widely circulated, Khan had no choice but to move forward with the request for the arrest warrants.

In Moratinos’ opinion, the senators’ action was utter political stupidity. In answer to his question as to why they would embark on such a move that was virtually guaranteed to backfire, I said that the senators’ only thought was to prove that they were faithful servants of Israel which pours large sums of money into their electoral campaigns and into propaganda to undermine their rivals in every electoral cycle. So, by publishing that letter, they proved their loyalty to Israel and its supporters in the US. They were more concerned about this than the possible arrest of Netanyahu because they fear that if they lose the backing of AIPAC, their main source of funding, their political career is over.

* A version of this article appears in print in the 29 May, 2024 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly

Short link: