on the hill

Senate letter calls on Blinken to denounce ICC decision on Israel

The bipartisan letter currently has five cosigners and will remain open until the end of the week

U.S. House of Representatives

Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH) and Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD)

Sens. Rob Portman (R-OH) and Ben Cardin (D-MD) are circulating a letter calling on Secretary of State Antony Blinken to denounce the decision by the International Criminal Court’s Pre-Trial Chamber to authorize the body to investigate alleged war crimes by Israel in the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem.

Sens. Jacky Rosen (D-NV), Jerry Moran (R-KS) and Susan Collins (R-ME) have already signed onto the letter, according to a source familiar with the matter. The letter, a copy of which was obtained by JI, will remain open for additional signatures until the end of the week.

While the State Department has previously spoken out against the ICC’s ruling, the letter encourages Blinken to “issue a more forceful condemnation of the Court’s actions” and to partner with international partners to “steer the ICC away from further actions that could damage the Court’s credibility by giving the appearance of political bias.”

The senators argue that the ICC’s decision represents an overreach of its authority, that it does not have the jurisdiction to investigate Israel and that its investigation represents a biased attack on Israel.

“The ICC’s Pre-Trial Chamber’s decision constitutes a dangerous politicization of the Court and distorts the purposes for which the Court was established,” the letter, whose existence was first reported by Haaretz, immediately responded to requests for comment, reads. “The Pre-Trial Chamber’s ruling creates an exception for the Court to investigate Israel, even while it is unable or unwilling to address some of the most urgent human rights cases in the world today, including those in Iran, Syria, and China.”

The senators disagreed with the ICC’s decision to recognize the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem as part of a Palestinian state. 

“‘Palestine’ does not meet the criteria for designation as a state, and the delineation of the boundaries of any future Palestinian state is a political decision that must be determined through negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians,” the letter continues. “This unprecedented action by the ICC’s Pre-Trial Chamber unfairly targets Israel, biases any subsequent investigation or trial, and hinders the path towards regional peace.”

(Read a draft of the full letter here)

“I support the Biden Administration’s objection to the ICC decision and their opposition to the unfair targeting of Israel. The ICC decision undermines efforts to establish a peaceful Palestinian state living side-by-side with a secure State of Israel through a two-state solution, which can only be achieved through direct negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians,” Rosen told JI.

The other signatories to the letter did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Portman and Cardin circulated a similar letter in May of 2020, which also called upon then-Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to push back against the ICC’s investigations into Israel. That letter picked up nearly 70 signatures — including that of now-Vice President Kamala Harris.