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Updated May 20, 2024, 2:58pm EDT
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Semafor Signals

Israel and Hamas bristle at being compared in ICC arrest warrants

Insights from Al Jazeera, The Conversation, and The Jerusalem Post

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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during a ceremony marking Memorial Day for fallen soldiers of Israel's wars and victims of attacks, at Jerusalem's Mount Herzl military cemetery, May 13, 2024. GIL COHEN-MAGEN/Pool via REUTERS
GIL COHEN-MAGEN/Pool via REUTERS
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The International Criminal Court’s prosecutor said he is seeking arrest warrants for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Hamas leaders Yahya Sinwar and Mohammed Deif over the war in Gaza and Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack on Israel respectively.

The ICC’s top prosecutor Karim Khan said Monday there were reasonable grounds to believe the men bore criminal responsibility for war crimes and crimes against humanity.

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The prosecutor will also apply for warrants for Israeli Defence Minister Yoav Gallant and Hamas’ political leader Ismail Haniyeh.

The ICC’s decision was strongly condemned by both Israeli and Hamas leaders, as well as the US, for drawing parallels between Israel and the militant group.

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SIGNALS

Semafor Signals: Global insights on today's biggest stories.

ICC’s goals hampered by lack of enforcement power

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Sources:  
Al Jazeera, The Conversation

The ICC’s “Achilles’ heel remains the lack of enforcement of the court’s orders,” Liechtenstein’s foreign minister said in 2018. The ICC has a “mixed record” of holding world leaders accountable for their crimes, global criminal justice expert Victor Peskin wrote for The Conversation, and the fact that Israel and the US aren’t party to the ICC makes it unlikely that Israeli leaders will ever be arrested. While international courts have a better chance of arresting and prosecuting high-level leaders once they fall from power, like in the case of Serbian nationalist leader Slobodan Milosevic, “history also shows that even if Hamas leaders are overthrown or Israeli leaders lose elections, there’s no guarantee that potential suspects will ever stand trial at the ICC,” Peskin wrote.

Warrants could hurt Israel internationally, but help Netanyahu politically

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Sources:  
The Jerusalem Post, CNN

The ICC warrant could spell “irreversible damage” for Israel’s global standing, an international lawyer argued in The Jerusalem Post, by prompting comparisons between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Russian President Vladimir Putin, who has a pending ICC arrest warrant. It could push some countries to suspend weapons sales to Israel, and potentially boost South Africa’s genocide case against Israel in the International Court of Justice. But the warrant could inadvertently help Netanyahu politically by giving him “an effective axe to grind,” argued Dan Perry, the former Middle East editor for the Associated Press. The ICC warrant will play into Netanyahu’s claims that “the case is an antisemitic calumny” — a popular argument with the Israeli public and opposition leaders.

Israel and Hamas bristle at being grouped together

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Source:  
CNN

Israeli and Hamas leaders, as well as the US, lashed out at the ICC for drawing parallels between the country and the militant group. Netanyahu said he rejected the comparison “with disgust.” War cabinet minister Benny Gantz said the decision to apply for warrants was “in itself a crime of historic proportion,” and opposition leader Yair Lapid called the comparison to Hamas “unforgivable.” US president Joe Biden said the arrest warrants against Israeli leaders were “outrageous,” adding “there is no equivalence — none — between Israel and Hamas.” Hamas said it “strongly condemns the attempts of the ICC Prosecutor to equate victims with aggressors.”

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