US indicates support for sanctions on ICC warrants against Israel

image source, Good pictures

image caption, Protesters disrupted Anthony Blinken’s testimony before the US Senate on Tuesday

  • author, Sam Cabral
  • stock, BBC News
  • Report from Washington

US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken has suggested working with lawmakers on possible sanctions against the International Criminal Court as its lawyer seeks arrest warrants for senior Israeli officials.

Mr Blinken told a congressional inquiry he was “determined” to take action against a “profoundly wrong decision”.

His comments come amid a Republican push to impose sanctions on ICC officials, which could see a vote as soon as this week.

The United States is not a member of the court but has supported previous cases, including the ICC’s arrest warrant for Russian President Vladimir Putin over the war in Ukraine.

At a Tuesday hearing of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, the top Republican, James Risch, asked whether he would support legislation that would have the ICC “prying its nose into the business of countries with independent, legitimate, democratic justice systems.”

“We want to work with you on a bilateral basis to find an appropriate response and I am committed to doing that,” the secretary of state said.

Mr Blinken said: “Again, we don’t necessarily have to look at corrective measures to deal with what is a deeply wrong intervention.”

The ICC’s chief prosecutor, Karim Khan, announced on Monday that it had applied for an arrest warrant against Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Yoav Galant.

US President Joe Biden on Monday said it was “absurd” to apply for arrest warrants. He added that there was a “balance – none” between Israel and Hamas.

Mr Blinken’s comments echoed a wider backlash in Washington over the court’s ruling.

At least two measures to impose sanctions on the ICC have already been introduced in Congress as the court ramps up its investigation into Israel’s handling of the war in Gaza.

Support on Capitol Hill appears to have coalesced around a bill introduced earlier this month by Texas Republican Chip Roy.

“Until the court stops the cases against the protected persons – the illegal anti-jurisdiction law will target the ICC officials involved in this case and prevent them from entering the United States by revoking their current US visas and prohibiting them from any property transactions within the country of the United States and its allies”.

At least 37 lawmakers in the Republican-led House are now co-sponsoring the legislation, including Elise Stefanik, the chamber’s third-highest-ranking Republican.

Ms Stefanik is fresh from a visit to Israel, where she met Mr Netanyahu, addressed the Knesset and met with the families of hostages trapped in Gaza.

“The court equates protecting the right to a peaceful nation with radical terrorist groups engaging in genocide,” he told the BBC in a statement.

Andy Barr of Kentucky, another Republican sponsoring the bill, said further proceeding with the ICC’s case against Israel “must be met with the full force of our sanctions.”

Moderate and liberal wings of the party have struggled for months with Mr Biden’s Israel policy, as young progressive voters have pushed the president to become more harshly critical of the Netanyahu government’s actions in Gaza.

Ohio’s Greg Landsman, one of the few Democrats who voted last week to reverse Mr Biden’s freeze on arms shipments to Israel, told the BBC he hoped Congress would issue a bipartisan condemnation of the ICC to “send as strong a message as possible”.

“The result [to seek arrest warrants] “It will further fuel tensions and divisions, fuel conspiracies against Israel and, ultimately, undermine the credibility of the ICC,” he said in a statement.

House Republican Speaker Mike Johnson urged the Senate’s top Democrat, Chuck Schumer, to sign a letter on Tuesday inviting Mr. Netanyahu to address a joint session of Congress.

In March, Mr Schumer called for new elections in Israel, but he described the ICC’s case on Monday as “reprehensible”.

Sen. Chris Coons, a Democrat from Delaware and a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, told BBC News that he would have to “carefully” weigh the decision on whether to grant permission to ICC officials.

Mr Coons said he was discussing the course of action with his bipartisan committee colleagues.

But some left-wing democrats have expressed their support for the ICC’s actions.

Minnesota Congressman Ilhan Omar said the court’s charges were “significant” and that the United States should support its work as it has done in the past, including in Libya.

“The ICC has been a functioning court – it has seen convictions, acquittals and dismissals, as we would expect from an impartial and non-political judicial body.”

It’s unclear whether any of the reauthorization efforts have yet gathered the support needed to advance through the Republican-led House or the Democratic-controlled Senate.

White House spokeswoman Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters Tuesday that administration officials are discussing “next steps” with lawmakers.

With Russia watching from around the world, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters that its adversary’s “attitude and willingness to use sanctions measures, even against the ICC,” was “more than interest.”

Additional reporting by Rachel Luker

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *