We need your help now

Support from readers like you keeps The Journal open.

You are visiting us because we have something you value. Independent, unbiased news that tells the truth. Advertising revenue goes some way to support our mission, but this year it has not been enough.

If you've seen value in our reporting, please contribute what you can, so we can continue to produce accurate and meaningful journalism. For everyone who needs it.

US President Joe Biden speaking at a dinner in Detroit yesterday. Alamy Stock Photo
mixed reception

Biden labels ICC request for warrants against Israeli leaders 'outrageous' as the world reacts

Neither Israel nor the United States recognises the jurisdiction of the ICC.

US PRESIDENT JOE Biden has described the decision by the International Criminal Court (ICC) prosecutor to seek arrest warrants for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defence Minister Yoav Gallant as “outrageous”. 

The court’s prosecutor, Karim Khan, filed requests for warrants today for the two Israeli leaders and for three Hamas leaders, alleging war crimes and crimes against humanity in Palestine and Israel, including extermination. 

Netanyahu rejected the accusations and the request for warrants with “disgust”.

“I reject with disgust The Hague prosecutor’s comparison between democratic Israel and the mass murderers of Hamas,” Netanyahu said in a statement, referring to the city in the Netherlands where the court is based.

Biden said in a statement today that the application for warrants against the two top Israeli officials was “outrageous”. 

“And let me be clear: whatever this prosecutor might imply, there is no equivalence – none – between Israel and Hamas,” Biden added, echoing the criticism of his close ally Netanyahu. 

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

Biden did not mention the charges against the Hamas leaders.

Hamas also criticised what it sees as a false equivalence drawn by Khan between the two sides in the conflict, while welcoming the decision in relation to Gallant and Netanyahu. 

“The Hamas movement strongly condemns the attempts of the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court to equate the victim with the executioner by issuing arrest warrants against a number of Palestinian resistance leaders,” the group said in a statement.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken denounced the application as “shameful” and warned it could harm ongoing efforts to negotiate a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas in Gaza. Israel recently rejected a ceasefire proposal that Hamas had said it would support. 

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

“We reject the prosecutor’s equivalence of Israel with Hamas. It is shameful.”

The charges against leaders on both sides do largely overlap but there are some differences, the most notable one being the accusation that Israel is using starvation as a weapon of war through its laying siege to the Gaza Strip. 

In the immediate aftermath of the Hamas attack against southern Israel on 7 October, Defence Minister Gallant said that Israel would cut off all food, water, fuel and power to the Gaza Strip, adding that his country was fighting “human animals” and “acting accordingly”.

Those comments were produced as evidence in South Africa’s separate case at the International Court of Justice, in which Israel is accused of genocide against the Palestinian people in Gaza. 

The world reacts

Israel’s other closest ally after the US, Germany, similarly condemned the decision to seek the warrants as giving the two sides a “false equivalence”.  

“The simultaneous application for arrest warrants against the Hamas leaders on the one hand and the two Israeli officials on the other has given the false impression of equivalence,” a spokesman for the foreign ministry said in a statement.

Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs Micheál Martin gave a less forceful comment on the decision.

“I note today’s announcement from ICC Prosecutor, Karim Khan on applications for arrest warrants,” he wrote on X.

“It is vital that we respect the independence and impartiality of the ICC. Ireland condemns recent threats against the ICC and its officials – its role in ending impunity is essential.”

Elsewhere, Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehammer said in a post on X that the decision was “non comprehensible”.

“We fully respect the independence of the ICC. The fact however that the leader of the terrorist organisation Hamas whose declared goal is the extinction of the State of Israel is being mentioned at the same time as the democratically elected representatives of that very State is non comprehensible.”

In contrast, South Africa welcomed the decision and praised prosecutor Khan for seeking warrants against leaders on both sides. 

“The law must be applied equally to all in order to uphold the international rule of law, ensure accountability for those that commit heinous crimes and protect the rights of victims,” a statement said.

A spokesperson for UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said the application for warrants was “not helpful” while also calling into question the ICC’s jurisdiction because Israel is not a signatory to the Rome Statute

Czech Prime Minister Peter Fiala strongly condemned the announcement, saying that issuing the warrants for both sides at the same time was “appalling and completely unacceptable”.

Belgium’s foreign minister, Hadja Lahbib, described the announcement as “an important step in the investigation of the situation in Palestine”.

“Belgium will continue to support the essential work of international justice to ensure that those responsible for all crimes are held accountable,” she wrote on X. 

Recognising jurisdiction 

Neither Israel nor the United States recognises the jurisdiction of the ICC, although the US has been contributing to the case there against Russian President Vladimir Putin for launching the full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

Otherwise, the US position towards the ICC has been hostile. For example, the Trump administration sanctioned members of the court over an investigation into US conduct in Afghanistan, but Biden later lifted them. 

However, the Biden White House has not ruled out sanctioning the ICC in the case of charges being brought against Israel. 

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said today that the US will keep assisting the ICC in its investigation into alleged war crimes in Ukraine despite the denouncement of today’s move by Khan.

“We continue that work,” Austin told reporters.


With reporting from AFP.

Need more information on what is happening in Israel and Palestine? Check out our new FactCheck Knowledge Bank for essential reads and guides to navigating the news online.

Readers like you are keeping these stories free for everyone...
A mix of advertising and supporting contributions helps keep paywalls away from valuable information like this article. Over 5,000 readers like you have already stepped up and support us with a monthly payment or a once-off donation.