The ICC Wants To Arrest Israeli Leaders

Have they committed the crimes they’re accused of?

The story

On Monday, the International Criminal Court applied for an arrest warrant for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Israel’s Defense Minister, Yoav Gallant. The ICC also plans to prosecute Hamas leaders Yahya Sinwar, Mohammed Deif, and Ismail Haniyeh.

In the application, the ICC accuses the Israeli prime minister and defense minister of using “starvation of civilians as a method of warfare,” and “extermination and/or murder … including in the context of deaths caused by starvation.”

The reaction

President Joe Biden called the arrest warrant application “outrageous.” He said, “whatever this prosecutor might imply, there is no equivalence — none — between Israel and Hamas.”

House Republicans are planning to draft a bill sanctioning the ICC for this decision, and Secretary of State Antony Blinken signaled that the Biden administration is willing to work with them.

Are the allegations true?

The ICC's central allegation against Israel is that it is using “starvation of civilians as a method of warfare.” As proof, it brings Gallant’s Oct. 9 statement which read: We [Israel] are imposing “a complete siege on Gaza … no electricity, no food, no water, no fuel. Everything is closed. We are fighting human animals, and we’re acting accordingly.”

But aid began entering the strip nine days later, on Oct. 18. During the following months, about 90 trucks of humanitarian aid entered Gaza daily. In the past month, the number of trucks spiked and, on some days, upwards of 200 trucks entered — including trucks from Israel. Additionally, the US conducted air drops of aid and built a floating pier on the Gaza coast for receiving 2 million meals per day.

Unfortunately, aid didn’t necessarily reach the people of Gaza. About 70 percent dispatched from the new pier has been stolen. None reached the broader population. Stolen aid has been a central issue since it began flowing into the strip.

When trucks enter, they are often hijacked or stolen by Hamas — which keeps the load for itself or sells at high prices, making it unavailable to the population. Theft has been well-documented since the start of the war, but mainstream media ignored it until recently. One Gazan claimed that there has been a steep drop in food prices since Israel began operations in Rafah because food could no longer be stolen by Hamas.

According to the Gaza Health Ministry — run by Hamas — 32 people died of starvation as of April 1. The deaths are cause for humanitarian concern and scrutiny, as is the humanitarian crisis in Gaza more generally.

However, Gaza’s death count is a far cry from the tens and hundreds of thousands of people who died from famine in past wars, where starvation was effectively used as a weapon to “exterminate” people, as the ICC suggests.

Why it matters

People listen to the ICC, whether right or wrong, primarily because it is an international institution in an age where liberal internationalism rules. Meanwhile, only 63 percent of countries are member states, which lends it less credibility than other institutions with a more significant buy-in.

Still, the ICC application will likely have an isolating effect on Israel and could result in sanctions, making it difficult for certain leaders to travel abroad. Most importantly, it can become a permanent dark stain on Israel’s image. Consequences may be mitigated depending on U.S. actions against the ICC, but stakes are high regarding the outcome.

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