ICC's controversial arrest requests for Israeli leaders
    Implications and global reactions

    INTERVIEWS  25 May 2024 - 14:42

    Samir Ibrahimov

    International Criminal Court (ICC) prosecutor Karim Khan has filed requests for the arrest of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Defence Minister Yoav Gallant and three Hamas leaders, accusing them of committing war crimes and crimes against humanity in Israel and the Gaza Strip. His request is to be considered by the ICC Pre-Trial Chamber.

    Khan's petitions drew unanimous condemnation in Israel, but a rather mixed reaction in the world. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called it "a manifestation of a new anti-Semitism". The Prime Minister considers all accusations absurd and false. "I reject with indignation the comparison made by the prosecutor in The Hague between democratic Israel and the Hamas mass murderers. It is a complete distortion of reality," he said.

    The second defendant, Defence Minister Yoav Gallant, said Karim Khan's decision was an attempt to deny Israel the right to defend itself and secure the release of the hostages. He said Israel was fighting in Gaza under international law and providing humanitarian aid there.

    Israeli President Isaac Herzog said that the international judicial system is in danger of collapse after such a move by the ICC prosecutor: "This represents a unilateral political move that gives courage to terrorists around the world."

    Khan's request for the arrest of the prime minister and defence minister was also criticized by opposition politicians in Israel. Thus, opposition leader Yair Lapid called the prosecutor's request a "catastrophe" and a "moral failure."

    The news of the request for an arrest warrant for the prime minister and defence minister of Israel was sharply criticized by the US President and lawmakers from both parties. The State Department said the ICC has no jurisdiction over the conflict in the Middle East. And House Speaker Mike Johnson even admitted that the US could impose sanctions against the International Criminal Court so that its members would face consequences if they issued arrest warrants for Israeli officials.

    In Europe, the ICC prosecutor's request to issue arrest warrants for Israel's leaders was criticized by Austria, Britain, Germany, Italy, Hungary and the Czech Republic. France, on the other hand, has supported the ICC in this situation.

    What are the risks of the current ICC initiative for Israel? Will top Israeli officials really be arrested if they travel to countries that recognize the jurisdiction of the ICC? Caliber.Az asked prominent Israeli experts to assess this situation.

    Writer, journalist, deputy editor-in-chief of the newspaper “News of the Week” (Tel Aviv) Pyotr Lukimson started by saying that Israel rejects all accusations of genocide, and not unsubstantiated, but on the basis of facts.

    "We have always waged and are now waging war in Gaza in compliance with all international laws, which no other state, including the US, has ever done and never does. Not to mention Russia, Syria and all the others. Perhaps it's not because we are so humane and good, but simply because we know that all our actions will be viewed by the international community through a magnifying glass, unlike the actions of other countries.

    All reports of the death toll in Gaza come from the Hamas Ministry of Health, and it's about 35,000 so far. But when it came to verification, the Hamas Health Ministry admitted that it could only verify the deaths of 24,000 people. And 80 per cent of the dead were men over the age of 18. But first, Hamas' army has at least 30,000 fighters, meaning most of the dead are terrorists. As for another 20 per cent, let's not forget that there are many teenagers 15-17 years old fighting on the side of Hamas. There were many of them among those who took part in the October 7 massacre," the journalist noted.

    Of course, there are civilian casualties, as in any war, but even here we should not forget that Israel tries to avoid them in every possible way, and Hamas often uses women and children as human shields, he says.

    "In general, Israel's accusations of 'genocide' involuntarily revive in my memory the events of 1915 in Türkiye, which I am familiar with from various sources, including Armenian ones. Even the latter do not deny that the Armenians of Eastern Anatolia were preparing an uprising in order to join Russia.

    As part of this struggle, pogroms were organized against Turks in various cities. And so when the Turkish army intervened to restore order, wiped out several Armenian gangs, and then the government decided to deport the Armenian population to the depths of the empire, the evictees were indeed brutally attacked by the Kurds on the way. The casualties were indeed many, but the question of who started it first? - remains, as does the question of whether these events can be called an Armenian "genocide"?

    The "genocide" of Palestinians in Gaza is even more unjust. For the past 20 years, rocket attacks and terrorist raids have been carried out from the Gaza Strip, where there were no Jews. Nevertheless, at the request of the international community, Israel has been supplying free water, electricity, food, etc. for all these years, while the international community has been supplying construction materials, pipes, chemicals and everything else that was used to make rockets, build a giant underground city for terror, etc.," Lukimson noted.

    According to him, at the beginning of the war, Israel actually intended to stop these supplies, which would have forced Hamas to capitulate within a month, and everything would have been over.

    "But under pressure from the same international community, deliveries of so-called humanitarian aid were resumed, and trucks with food and everything else flowed into Gaza. This continues to this day, and along with the hundreds of trucks with this aid that pass through the border crossings every day, there is now a huge pier built off the coast of the sector by the Americans, through which humanitarian aid also arrives there.

    Much of it falls into the hands of Hamas and is sold to them. There have been many cases in which Hamas killed tribesmen who tried to get to aid before they did. In any case, there is no shortage of food, electricity, water and other things in Gaza now. More to the point - there is so much food that some of it is being thrown away. All claims of famine in Gaza are lies and propaganda. In addition, weapons and ammunition have clearly flowed in with the relief supplies, and our south is once again continuously shooting back from Gaza, although at first it seemed that Hamas would lose its fighting capacity and our refugees from the south would be able to return to their homes.

    From all of the aforementioned, the absurdity of all the accusations against Israel at the ICC is clear, but this body has long discredited itself, and absurdity increasingly rules the day in our world, and a return to normality, if it ever happens, will be long and difficult. One need only look at the list of ICC judges to realize that they are biased and, legally speaking, in conflict of interest. Israel does not recognize the ICC, and its decisions will not affect our position in any way.

    As for how much the arrest warrants for Netanyahu and Gallant might frighten our leadership, after all, most normal countries have not made that decision. And as for those that have or will, as they say, we don't need to go there. But the judges who approve this decision may be permanently barred from entering at least the US and maybe other countries, because this is a truly scandalous decision that denies the facts and contradicts all accepted norms," Lukimson added.

    In turn, political scientist, publicist Avigdor Eskin (Jerusalem) noted that the International Criminal Court has not yet ruled on his prosecutor's petition.

    "Once again we are witnessing how the judicial structures demonstrate politicization and ideological engagement. We are talking about a complete collapse of perceptions of the judiciary as exalted and objective. The same court ignored bloody events elsewhere in the world," the political scientist said.

    As for the possible consequences for Israeli leaders, it's too early to tell, he said.

    "The Americans are already doing a lot to moderate the ICC's zeal. If their attempts to moderate the ICC fail, this structure itself will cease to exist as an authoritative and effective one. With tough US opposition, the ICC is doomed to die out. So I would not rush to fear and conclusions," Eskin concluded on an optimistic note.


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