White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre

White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre speaks during the daily briefing at the White House in Washington, D.C. on April 29, 2024.

(Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images)

'We Do Not Support' ICC Probe of Israeli War Crimes in Gaza, Says White House

"ICC warrants against Israel and Hamas will offer the West a choice: Either torpedo the international criminal justice project they have advanced since 1945 for good or hypocritically demand impunity for Israeli war crimes."

White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre on Monday reaffirmed the Biden administration's opposition to the International Criminal Court potentially issuing an arrest warrant for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu or other top officials related to Israel's war on the Gaza Strip.

"Would the U.S. or the White House see any potential arrests by the ICC as an aggravating factor in the negotiations?" one journalist asked about talks to end the bloodshed and free hostages.

Jean-Pierre responded: "So, we've been really clear about the ICC investigation. We do not support it. We don't believe that they have the jurisdiction. And I'm just gonna leave it there for now."

Asked later about President Joe Biden's Sunday call with Netanyahu and whether the U.S. government is involved in any attempts to avert warrants from the Hague-based court, the press secretary echoed her previous comments.

The exchanges followed reporting that the Israeli government, in partnership with the U.S., is "making a concerted effort to head off" possible arrest warrants from the ICC targeting Netanyahu as well as Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant and Israel Defense Forces (IDF) Chief of Staff Herzi Halevi.

Citing two unnamed Israeli officials, Axiosreported that Netanyahu on Sunday asked Biden to help prevent the ICC from issuing warrants. A spokesperson for the White House National Security Council told the outlet that "as we have publicly said many times, the ICC has no jurisdiction in this situation and we do not support its investigation."

Neither Israel nor the United States is a party to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, the treaty that established the tribunal, but Palestine accepted its jurisdiction over alleged crimes committed "in the occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem," in 2015.

The ICC formally launched its war crimes investigation in the occupied Palestinian territories in 2021, long before the IDF began its ongoing retaliation for the Hamas-led attack October 7 on Israel. The probe includes crimes going back to June 13, 2014.

Urging Biden "to intervene as part of the administration's ongoing commitment to Israel," U.S. Sen. John Fetterman (D-Pa.) on Monday declared that "it would be a fatal blow to the judicial and moral standing of ICC to pursue this path against Israel."

Mark Kersten, an assistant professor at the University of the Fraser Valley, responded: "Now a Democratic senator is threatening the ICC's very existence if it does what it was created to do: Impartially and independently investigate international crimes, without fear or favor. I hope this grotesque threat and atrocity-denialism is roundly condemned."

Also noting Fetterman's comments, Alonso Gurmendi, a lecturer in international relations at King's College London, said: "They really don't realize just how isolated Western governments are on this. Even among their own populations. This won't be a fatal blow to the ICC. It will relaunch its relationship with the global majority. Fighting this will only isolate and weaken the West further."

In January, the International Court of Justice found that Israel is "plausibly" engaged in genocide in Gaza. As of Monday, the Israeli bombardment and blockade had killed at least 34,488 Palestinians in the Hamas-governed strip, injured another 77,643, left thousands more missing in bombed-out communities, and displaced around 90% of the enclave's 2.3 million people.

Since October, the United States has ramped up its billions of dollars in military support for Israel. The Biden administration has been accused of being complicit in genocide in federal court. The next hearing in the case is scheduled for June.

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