Netanyahu Warns US Leaders Could Be Targeted Next

Netanyahu Warns US Leaders Could Be Targeted Next
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addresses the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Hamas terrorist group, in Jerusalem on Feb. 18, 2024. (Ronen Zvulun/Reuters)

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Tuesday that he disagrees with arrest warrants sought against him by the International Criminal Court (ICC), suggesting that U.S. leaders could be next.

The ICC this week said it would seek arrest warrants for Mr. Netanyahu, Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, and the Hamas leaders, prompting criticism from both Israeli and top U.S. officials, including President Joe Biden. The ICC claimed that the warrants for the Israeli leadership were over the country’s conduct in the ongoing Israel-Hamas conflict.

Mr. Netanyahu said the warrants against himself and Defense Minister Yoav Gallant over the country’s conduct in its fight against Hamas in the Gaza Strip set a “dangerous” precedent for other democratic countries, including Israel’s allies.

“Israel is given here a bum rap. I think it’s dangerous. Basically, it’s the first democracy being taken to the dock when it is doing exactly what democracies should be doing in an exemplary way,” he told CNN in a televised interview. “It endangers all other democracies. Israel is first, but you’re next. Britain is next. Others are next, too.”

Also in the interview, Mr. Netanyahu asserted that the ICC claims were “false, dangerous, and outrageous,” and that chief prosecutor Karim Khan is only exacerbating the problem. It’s also false to see Israel and Hamas as equals, he added.

“He’s equating the democratically elected leaders of Israel with the terrorist tyrants of Hamas. That’s like saying, well, I’m issuing arrest warrants for FDR and Churchill but also for Hitler. Or I’m going to issue arrest warrants for George W. Bush but also for [Osama] bin Laden. That’s absurd,” Mr. Netanyahu said.

A panel of three judges will decide whether to issue the arrest warrants and allow a case to proceed. The judges typically take two months to make such decisions.

Israel is not a member of the court, so even if the arrest warrants are issued, Mr. Netanyahu and Mr. Gallant do not face any immediate risk of prosecution. But the threat of arrest could make it difficult for the Israeli leaders to travel abroad.

Mr. Khan, the prosecutor, said in a statement Monday that the two may “bear criminal responsibility” for “war crimes and crimes against humanity” in Gaza, including the alleged starvation of civilians, willful killing, persecution, and more. As for Hamas, the ICC said its leaders Yahya Sinwar, Ismail Haniyeh, and Mohammed Diab Ibrahim Al-Masri may be responsible for crimes against humanity, taking hostages as a war crime, torture, various inhumane acts, and more.

International human rights lawyer Amal Clooney, the wife of actor George Clooney, served on a five-member expert panel that advised Mr. Khan. She said the panel had agreed unanimously that there are “reasonable grounds” to believe that both the Hamas and Israeli leaders had committed war crimes, according to a statement issued by her office.

In a statement issued on Monday, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Washington rejects the ICC prosecutor’s announcement that he would seek arrest warrants, adding that “we reject the Prosecutor’s equivalence of Israel with Hamas. It is shameful.”

“Hamas is a brutal organization that carried out the worst massacre of Jews since the Holocaust and is still holding dozens of innocent people hostage, including Americans,” he added in the statement.

Hamas, a U.S. State Department-designated terrorist organization, also denounced the ICC prosecutor’s actions, saying the request to arrest its leaders “equates the victim with the executioner.”

NTD Photo
Israel’s Defense Minister Yoav Gallant speaks during a joint press conference with U.S. secretary of defense, in Tel Aviv, Israel, on Dec. 18, 2023. (Alberto Pizzoli/AFP via Getty Images)

Inside the United States, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) said he backed the ICC’s move, saying “these arrest warrants may or may not be carried out, but it is imperative that the global community uphold international law,” according to a statement he issued earlier this week. “Without these standards of decency and morality, this planet may rapidly descend into anarchy, never-ending wars, and barbarism.”

Israel is separately facing a South African-brought case in the International Court of Justice, the top court of the United Nations, in which it accused the country of genocide. Israeli officials have denied those claims.

The ICC was established in 2002 to prosecute people linked to war crimes, genocide, crimes against humanity, and aggression.

Last year, the ICC issued a warrant for Russian President Vladimir Putin on charges linked to the ongoing war in Ukraine. The Kremlin responded by issuing arrest warrants for Mr. Khan and other judges on the international panel.

Other prominent individuals who have been charged by the ICC include former Libyan strongman Moammar Gadhafi, who died in November 2011 amid the “Arab Spring” uprisings of the same year, as well as his son Saif Gadhafi, former Sudanese leader Omar al-Bashir, and African warlord Joseph Kony.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

From The Epoch Times

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