Netanyahu in furious response to war crimes allegations: ‘This is the new antisemitism’

‘This is a complete distortion of reality,’ Israel’s prime minister says in video statement after ICC prosecutor moves to have arrest warrants issued against him and his defence minister

Maroosha Muzaffar
Tuesday 21 May 2024 09:41 BST
ICC seeks arrest warrants against Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu and defence minister Yoal Gallant over alleged Gaza war crimes

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Benjamin Netanyahu has issued a video statement labelling the International Criminal Court’s decision to seek arrest warrants against him and Israel’s defence minister “a complete distortion of reality”.

ICC prosecutor Karim Khan on Monday applied to have arrest warrants issued for Mr Netanyahu and Yoal Gallant as well as Hamas leaders Yahya Sinwar, Mohammed Deif and Ismail Haniyeh, accusing them of war crimes and crimes against humanity in the Gaza Strip and Israel.

“I reject with disgust the comparison of the prosecutor in the Hague between democratic Israel and the mass murderers of Hamas,” Israel’s prime minister said. “With what audacity do you compare Hamas that murdered, burnt, butchered, decapitated, raped and kidnapped our brothers and sisters with the IDF soldiers fighting a just war unlike any other?”

“This is a complete distortion of reality,” he added. “This is exactly what the new antisemitism looks like, it has moved from the campuses in the West to the court in The Hague.

“Citizens of Israel, I promise you one thing: the attempt to tie our hands will fail,” he said. “As prime minister of Israel, I pledge that no pressure and no decision in any international forum will prevent us from striking those who seek to destroy us.”

In his application for arrest warrants to be issued, Mr Khan stated that “on the basis of evidence collected and examined by my Office, I have reasonable grounds to believe that Benjamin Netanyahu, the prime minister of Israel, and Yoav Gallant, the minister of defence of Israel, 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 8 October 2023”.

US president Joe Biden also issued a statement criticising the “outrageous” ICC application for Mr Netanyahu’s arrest.

“The ICC prosecutor’s application for arrest warrants against Israeli leaders is outrageous,” he said. “And let me be clear: whatever this prosecutor might imply, there is no equivalence – none – between Israel and Hamas. We will always stand with Israel against threats to its security.”

A panel of three judges will decide whether to issue the warrants. The process usually takes about two months.

Since Israel isn’t a member of the court at The Hague, Mr Netanyahu and Mr Gallant do not face an immediate threat of prosecution even if arrest warrants are issued against them.

But the threat of arrest could complicate their ability to travel abroad.

Israel’s foreign minister, Israel Katz, said the ICC’s application was a “historical disgrace” and a “scandalous decision”.

Mr Khan, the prosecutor, told CNN on Monday that Israel had “every right and indeed an obligation to get hostages back, but you must do so by complying with the law”.

He explained the charges he is seeking against Mr Netanyahu and Mr Gallant include “causing extermination, causing starvation as a method of war, including the denial of humanitarian relief supplies, deliberately targeting civilians in conflict”.

“The fact that Hamas fighters need water doesn’t justify denying water from all the civilian population of Gaza.”

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