Updated May 22nd, 2024 at 21:02 IST

Biden Administration Indicates it is Open to Congress Action Against International Criminal Court

The White House is reportedly working with Congress to formulate a response to the ICC prosecutor's decision to seek an arrest warrant for Israeli leaders.

Reported by: Digital Desk
President Joe Biden reacted to ICC prosecutor Khan's announcement by saying that the US "will always stand with Israel against threats to its security." | Image:AP
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New Delhi: During the course of a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on Tuesday, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said that the Biden administration is willing to work with Congress on a bipartisan basis to formulate a response to the International Criminal Court prosecutor's decision to seek an arrest warrant against Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu and Defence Minister Yoav Gallant. According to a report by Axios, Blinken characterised the decision as “wrong-headed” and claimed that it had harmed the ongoing negotiations between Hamas and Israel to reach a ceasefire deal in Gaza. 

It may be recalled that on Monday, May 20, the ICC prosecutor Karim Khan announced that his office was seeking an arrest warrant against Netanyahu, Gallant and three Hamas leaders including the group's leader Yahya Sinwar over alleged war crimes. 

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In regard to the charges against the Israeli leadership, Khan said- “Based on evidence collected and examined by my Office, I have reasonable grounds to believe that Netanyahu and Gallant, bear criminal responsibility for war crimes and crimes against humanity committed on the territory of the State of Palestine (in the Gaza strip) from at least October 8, 2023.”

Additionally, Khan had also said that he had enough evidence to accuse Netanyahu and Gallant of intentionally starving and attacking the civilian population in Gaza during the ongoing conflict. 

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The worldwide reaction to the development was immediate and effusive. While nations such as France and Belgium upheld the authority of the ICC to investigate war crimes in Gaza and appeared to support the warrants, the US not only rejected the charges being made against the Israeli leaders but also noted that there was no equivalence between the actions of Israel and Hamas. 

Israeli PM Netanyahu called the decision by the ICC prosecutor a “disgrace” and said that "no pressure and no decision in any international forum will prevent us from striking those who seek to destroy us.”

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Privately, in the weeks before the ICC prosecutor made his announcement, Israel had reportedly warned the US that any ICC arrest warrants against Israel would result in punitive measures against the Palestinian Authority, as per a report by Axios. 

The White House reaction aside, a bipartisan group of US lawmakers reacted to arrest warrants with considerable fury, with some even threatening to draft sanctions against the ICC. Axios reported that this bipartisan group is now working with the White House to formulate an appropriate response to the ICC's move though it is not immediately clear if this response will include sanctions against the international court. 

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The report notes that many US lawmakers and officials feel that Khan had lied to them and deceived them. Ahead of the warrants announcement, Khan had reportedly met US lawmakers and officials and assured them that Israeli officials would be allowed to make their case in front of ICC representatives before his office would make any declarations about its investigation. 

Lindsay Graham, a Republican senator and one of the lawmakers seeking action against the ICC posted a statement on X after Khan's announcement saying “I feel that I was lied to and that my colleagues were lied to. Prosecutor Khan is drunk with self-importance and has done a lot of damage to the peace process and to the ability to find a way forward.”

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Published May 22nd, 2024 at 21:02 IST