ICC Prosecutor Seeks Arrest Warrants for Netanyahu and Hamas Leader, Biden Condemns Move


The prosecutor of the International Criminal Court announced on Monday his intention to request arrest warrants for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar. President Joe Biden condemned the decision as ‘outrageous,’ citing its moral equivalence. While Biden’s sentiment is understandable, he overlooks a larger issue. For the ICC, prosecutor Karim Khan, and celebrity advisors like Amal Clooney, the ultimate targets include not just Israel, but the United States as well.

The ICC is far from an impartial body; it allows political influences and public opinion to guide its decisions. Under previous prosecutors, namely Argentine attorney Luis Moreno Ocampo and Gambian lawyer Fatou Bensouda, the court indicted numerous African leaders from countries such as Kenya, Rwanda, the Central African Republic, and Libya. This led to criticism from African nations about perceived bias, prompting Bensouda to consider prosecuting Americans for alleged war crimes in Afghanistan.

Starting in November 2017, the ICC conducted a 10-week investigation in Afghanistan to probe alleged war crimes by U.S. forces, the CIA, some European allies, and the Afghan National Security Forces. The Taliban were theoretically included in the mandate, but the court was unable to investigate Taliban-controlled areas. Bensouda’s maneuver, aimed at gaining publicity, proved ineffective, but it did momentarily silence her African critics. When the Taliban regained control of Afghanistan, leading to significant human rights abuses, the ICC ceased its investigation, citing a lack of access. Moreover, Joe Biden’s victory over Donald Trump diminished the importance of the political gain ICC officials were seeking.

Career aspirations also play a role in these actions. For instance, former Irish President Mary Robinson leveraged antisemitism as the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights to advance her career, aligning herself with some of the world’s most egregious human rights violators. She now heads the ‘Elders,’ a self-appointed council of influential figures who claim to offer sage advice while acting as both judge and jury in international diplomacy.

Khan is following a similar trajectory, turning a blind eye to China’s repression of the Uyghurs, the Iranian and Syrian governments’ atrocities, and Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev’s ethnic cleansing in Nagorno-Karabakh. The decision not to pursue these cases is not from a lack of evidence.

The ICC has ample evidence to investigate: testimonies from Uyghur genocide survivors, satellite images documenting China’s systematic oppression, and “Caesar,” a defector from Assad’s regime, presenting over 100,000 photos of torture and murder. Azerbaijani forces, much like Hamas, have documented their own atrocities, including rape, mutilation, and beheading of Christian captives. Khan and Clooney may enjoy brief moments of fame among the elite, but history will likely view the ICC’s indictment of Netanyahu, the first of a democratic leader, as another grave injustice similar to the Dreyfus Affair.

While their intentions may be questionable, Biden must acknowledge the potential threat to all Americans. The ICC based its indictment on supposed Israeli violations of humanitarian law during counterterrorism operations against Hamas. However, the United Nations secretly revised its Palestinian casualty figures, reducing them by half. The Israeli Defense Forces have shown themselves to be one of the most conscientious and least civilian-harming armies in the history of warfare.

I’ve personally witnessed the devastation in Mosul and Raqqa after American forces liberated these cities from the Islamic State. The destruction in both locales was comparable to, if not greater than, that in Gaza, with significant civilian casualties. The Obama administration wisely chose not to immediately resupply the populations of these cities, understanding that aid would likely be commandeered by the Islamic State.

By setting a precedent where virtually any civilian casualties can result in the indictment of elected leaders and their military forces, Khan is potentially restricting the operational freedom of all American leaders at a time when the liberal world order faces unprecedented challenges. Merely expressing ‘outrage’ is insufficient. Figures like Khan and Clooney today pose a more substantial threat to the liberal order and human rights than any current Israeli or American leader.

Michael Rubin
Michael Rubin
Michael Rubin is a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI). He previously worked as an official at the Pentagon, where he dealt with issues relating to the Middle East, and as political adviser to the Coalition Provisional Authority. He's also a contributor to the Beltway Confidential blog.

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