US hints at support for ICC-ordered sanctions against Israel

Image source, fake images

Screenshot, Protesters disrupted Antony Blinken’s testimony before the US Senate on Tuesday.

  • Author, Sam Cabral
  • Role, bbc news
  • Reporting from Washington

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has suggested he will work with lawmakers on possible sanctions against the International Criminal Court as his prosecutor seeks arrest warrants for senior Israeli officials.

Blinken told a congressional hearing that he was “committed” to taking action against the “deeply misguided decision.”

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

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

At a Tuesday hearing in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, James Risch, his top Republican, asked whether Blinken would support legislation to address the ICC by “poking its nose into the affairs of countries that have an independent, legitimate and democratic judicial system.” “.

“We want to work with you on a bipartisan basis to find an appropriate response. I am committed to doing so,” the Secretary of State said.

Blinken said there is “no question that we have to consider the appropriate steps to take to address, again, a deeply misguided decision.”

ICC chief prosecutor Karim Khan announced on Monday that he had requested arrest warrants for Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Yoav Gallant.

Khan is also seeking arrest warrants for three Hamas officials: Yahya Sinwar, its leader in Gaza, Mohammed Deif, the commander of its Qassam Brigades military wing, and Ismail Haniyeh, the head of its political office.

US President Joe Biden said on Monday it was “outrageous” to seek arrest warrants. There is “no equivalence – none – between Israel and Hamas,” he added.

Blinken’s comments echoed the broader rejection in Washington of the court’s decision.

At least two measures imposing sanctions on the ICC had already been introduced in Congress as the court intensified its investigation into Israel’s handling of the war in Gaza.

Support on Capitol Hill appears to be solidifying around a bill launched earlier this month by Texas Republican Chip Roy.

The Countering Illegitimate Courts Act would target ICC officials involved in the case by blocking their entry into the US, revoking any current US visas they hold and prohibiting them from conducting any property transactions within the country unless the court to cease its cases against “protected persons.” 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 third-highest-ranking Republican in the chamber.

Stefanik just visited Israel, where she met with Netanyahu, spoke in the Knesset and met with the families of hostages trapped in Gaza.

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

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

It’s less clear, however, whether Democratic lawmakers will back the effort.

The party’s moderate and liberal wings have grappled with Biden’s Israel policy for months, while young progressive voters have pressured the president to harsher criticize the Netanyahu government’s operations in Gaza.

Greg Landsman of Ohio, one of the few Democrats who voted last week to reverse Biden’s pause on an arms shipment to Israel, told the BBC he hopes Congress will issue a bipartisan rebuke to the ICC “for sending the strongest message possible.

“The decision (to seek arrest warrants) will only further inflame tensions and divisions, embolden anti-Israel conspiracies, and ultimately undermine the credibility of the ICC,” he said in a statement.

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

In March, Schumer called for new elections in Israel, but called Monday’s ICC case “reprehensible.”

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

Minnesota Congresswoman Ilhan Omar said the court’s allegations are “significant” and that the United States should support its work as it has done on previous occasions, including in the Libya case.

“The request for arrest warrants is only the beginning of a judicial process,” he wrote in a statement Monday.

“The ICC has been a functional court: it has seen convictions, acquittals and dismissals, as we would expect from an impartial and apolitical judicial body.”

It remains unclear whether any sanctions effort has yet gained the support needed to advance in the Republican-led House of Representatives or the Democratic-controlled Senate.

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

Watching from around the world in Russia, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters that his adversary’s “attitude and willingness to use sanctions methods even against the ICC” was “more than curious.”

Additional reporting by Rachel Looker