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Western Allies Scramble as ICC Targets Netanyahu and Defense Chief

by Thaabit Kamaar


Pretoria – Earlier this week, the International Criminal Court (ICC) requested arrest warrants for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, his Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, and three Hamas leaders for violations of international and humanitarian law.

This unexpected but welcomed decision has sent shockwaves across the globe, sparking a broader conversation about the ICC’s role in enforcing international law and holding powerful nations accountable for their crimes, regardless of their democratic status.

The request for arrest warrants particularly impacts Israel’s staunchest allies in the United States (US) and notable European countries such as France, Germany, and England. However, countries in the Global South which support the Palestinian cause, a ceasefire to the ongoing genocide, and an end to the occupation of Palestine welcome the bold move by the ICC.

Though considered bold and positive, Dr Quraysha Sooliman, a postdoctoral researcher in the Department of Political Science at the University of Pretoria, criticised the ICC for its “compromised integrity” due to inconsistent actions in investigating and addressing crimes against humanity and its delayed response in issuing arrest warrants to Western leaders, contrasting it with its swift action against Russian President Vladimir Putin.

“Although it is a bold move, we must not exclude that context. Also, there’s certainly a lot of politicking going on here, and the only reason, possibly, that they have come to this decision is because if they don’t, they literally make themselves irrelevant.”

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The request from ICC Prosecutor Karim Khan has notably put Israel and its allies in a difficult position, especially those who are party to the mandates of the ICC. In response, Israeli officials have called on “nations of the civilised world” or nations of the white European world to condemn the request for warrants and refuse to implement it if granted.

The US, Israel’s key ally, has shown strong support for Israel’s position by openly opposing the court. US President Joe Biden called the decision to seek arrest warrants against Netanyahu and Gallant “outrageous.”

Some European nations have committed to respecting international law and the court’s decision. However, they have failed to explicitly state whether or not they would comply with the warrants if issued.

“In a way, this move by the ICC has created the benchmark for establishing which of the racist colonial and secular colonial European states will put their money where their mouth is. Are they going to show their true colours or a commitment to real change and the recognition of the equality of all people? … Whether the rest of the European states will come to the party now depends on their actions, which will reveal where their humanity, morality, ethics, and actual standing lie.”

In addition to their criticism and opposition to the ICC, some members of the court have faced direct threats and intimidation from Western leaders.

ICC Prosecutor Khan revealed that he received a threat from a prominent Western leader, who told him that the ICC was built for “Africa and thugs like Putin.” This attitude highlights the bias, selective focus, and double standards of Western nations and their institutions.

Such statements reinforce the notion that the ICC disproportionately targets leaders from African countries and other specific regions while being reluctant to pursue cases involving powerful Western nations or their allies.

As we await the decision on whether the warrants will be issued, there are concerns about the ICC’s impartiality. Dr Sooliman hopes that countries in the Global South are observing this situation closely, so if the warrants aren’t issued in due course, it may inspire them to reassess their alliances and potentially create their international systems.

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