Israeli leaders concerned ICC may issue arrest warrants over Gaza war

Israeli leaders, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, appear increasingly concerned that the International Criminal Court (ICC) may issue arrest warrants against the country’s officials for actions taken in the war between Israel and Hamas.

On Monday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu posted on X that “Israel will never accept any attempt by the ICC to undermine its inherent right of self-defense… While the ICC will not affect Israel’s actions, it would set a dangerous precedent that threatens the soldiers and officials of all democracies fighting savage terrorism and wanton aggression.”

Under my leadership, Israel will never accept any attempt by the ICC to undermine its inherent right of self-defense.The threat to seize the soldiers and officials of the Middle East’s only democracy and the world’s only Jewish state is outrageous. We will not bow to it.Israel…— Benjamin Netanyahu – בנימין נתניהו (@netanyahu)

Israel Katz, the Foreign Minister of Israel, said that the potential warrants could provide a “morale boost” to Hamas but would be unlikely to impact the most senior members of Israeli leadership, . “We expect the court (ICC) to refrain from issuing arrest warrants against senior Israeli political and security officials,” Katz said. “We will not bow our heads or be deterred and will continue to fight.”

The ICC’s prosecutor Karim Khan has not confirmed the possibility of imminent arrest warrants for Israeli leaders. In October after the war broke out, Khan promised his office would scrutinize the actions of all military parties engaged in the war. “The message is that any person with their finger on the trigger of a gun or controls a missile, has certain responsibilities. My Office will look closely to see whether those responsibilities are being adhered to or not,” he .

Any arrest warrants would need to be approved first by a panel of judges. Approximately 60% of the world’s countries accept the ICC’s jurisdiction, but the U.S. and Israel are not among them. While Israel has not accepted the jurisdiction of the ICC, the state of Palestine has, which means the court still claims jurisdiction over the West Bank and Gaza. Arrest warrants could complicate Israeli officials’ abilities to travel to countries like the U.K., Canada, France, and Germany that accept ICC jurisdiction.

More than 34,000 Palestinians in Gaza have died since the Israel Hamas war began, the majority of them women and children, according to the Hamas-run Palestinian Ministry of Health. 1,200 Israelis died in the Oct. 7 attack, and another 200 were .

The International Criminal Court was established in 2002 in the aftermath of the genocides in Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia. It differs from the International Criminal Court of Justice (ICJ), which this year oversaw in Gaza, because it holds specific individuals to account. The ICJ, on the other hand, deals with disputes between state actors.

In March 2023, the ICC issued for the unlawful deportation of children during the Russia-Ukraine war, though it has yet to be enforced. Other notable figures that the ICC has issued arrest warrants for include Omar Al Bashir, the former president of Sudan, for his role in the Darfur genocide, and former Libyan head of state Muammar Gaddafi for crimes against humanity committed during the Libyan civil war.