US To Sanction ICC For Seeking Arrest Warrants For Israeli Officials

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US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has indicated that he will collaborate with lawmakers on potential sanctions against the International Criminal Court (ICC) as its prosecutor seeks arrest warrants for senior Israeli officials.

Mr. Blinken expressed his commitment to taking action against what he termed a “profoundly wrong-headed decision” during a congressional hearing. His remarks come in the context of a Republican initiative to impose sanctions on ICC officials, with a vote potentially occurring this week. Although the United States is not a member of the ICC, it has supported previous prosecutions, such as the ICC’s arrest warrant for Russian President Vladimir Putin over the war in Ukraine.

At a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on Tuesday, James Risch, the committee’s top Republican, inquired whether Mr. Blinken would support legislation addressing the ICC’s involvement in the affairs of countries with independent, democratic judicial systems.

This inquiry followed the announcement by ICC chief prosecutor Karim Khan on Monday, seeking arrest warrants for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, as well as three Hamas officials: Yahya Sinwar, Mohammed Deif, and Ismail Haniyeh.

President Joe Biden condemned the ICC’s decision, labeling it “outrageous” and emphasizing the lack of equivalence between Israel and Hamas. Mr. Blinken’s comments reflect the broader opposition in Washington to the court’s actions.

Congress has introduced at least two measures to impose sanctions on the ICC as it intensifies its investigation into Israel’s actions in Gaza. Support is growing for a bill introduced by Texas Republican Chip Roy, known as the Illegitimate Court Counteraction Act, which would sanction ICC officials involved in the case by restricting their entry to the US, revoking current visas, and prohibiting property transactions unless the court ceases its actions against “protected persons” of the US and its allies.

This legislation has garnered the support of at least 37 Republican lawmakers, including Elise Stefanik, who recently visited Israel and met with Prime Minister Netanyahu.

Andy Barr of Kentucky, another Republican supporting the bill, stated that continued pursuit of the ICC’s case against Israel must “be met with the full force of our sanctions.”

However, it is uncertain whether Democratic lawmakers will support the effort, as the party has been divided over President Biden’s Israel policy. Ohio Democrat Greg Landsman expressed hope for a bipartisan response to the ICC to send a strong message.

Republican House Speaker Mike Johnson urged Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, a Democrat, to invite Mr. Netanyahu to address Congress. Despite calling for new elections in Israel in March, Mr. Schumer described the ICC’s case as “reprehensible.”

Senator Chris Coons, a Democrat from Delaware, expressed uncertainty about sanctioning ICC officials but indicated that discussions were ongoing within the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Meanwhile, some left-wing Democrats, like Congresswoman Ilhan Omar, have supported the ICC’s actions, highlighting the significance of the allegations and the need for consistent US support for the court.

It remains unclear if the sanctions effort has sufficient support to pass through either the Republican-led House or the Democrat-controlled Senate. White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre stated that the administration is discussing “next steps” with lawmakers. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov commented on the situation, noting the US’s willingness to use sanctions against the ICC as “more than curious.”