Johnson urges WH to push ICC to walk back plans for Israeli arrest warrants

House Speaker Mike Johnson tells JI that such a move is ‘disgraceful’

Kent Nishimura/Getty Images

House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-LA) does an interview with CNN at the U.S. Capitol on April 17, 2024 in Washington, D.C.

House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-LA) called on the Biden administration to join him in urging the International Criminal Court not to issue arrest warrants for top Israeli officials on charges relating to the war in Gaza. 

Johnson said in a statement provided exclusively to Jewish Insider that it is “disgraceful” that the ICC is “reportedly planning to issue baseless and illegitimate arrest warrants against Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu and other senior Israeli officials.”

“Such a lawless action by the ICC would directly undermine U.S. national security interests,” Johnson continued. “If unchallenged by the Biden administration, the ICC could create and assume unprecedented power to issue arrest warrants against American political leaders, American diplomats, and American military personnel, thereby endangering our country’s sovereign authority.”

Johnson added that the administration “must immediately and unequivocally demand that the ICC stand down and the U.S. should use every available tool to prevent such an abomination,” noting, “Instead of wrongly targeting Israel, the ICC should pursue charges against Iran and its terror proxies, including Hamas, for engaging in horrific war crimes.”

Johnson’s statement comes in response to a series of reports in recent days alleging that the ICC is planning to order the arrests of Netanyahu and senior members of his war cabinet over their handling of the war in Gaza. The New York Times reported that if the warrants were issued, the officials would be charged with preventing humanitarian aid deliveries into Gaza and with responding too “excessively” to the Oct. 7 attacks. Senior members of Hamas leadership would also be charged with committing war crimes as part of the case. 

Reached for comment on the probe, a U.S. National Security Council spokesperson said in a statement to JI that, “As we have publicly said many times, the ICC has no jurisdiction in this situation and we do not support its investigation.”

U.S. officials say they fear that issuing such warrants could derail any hope of achieving a cease-fire agreement that would secure the release of all remaining hostages from Hamas’ captivity. Israel unveiled a new deal late last week that would prevent an invasion into Rafah in exchange for the 33 remaining women and children still being held hostage by Hamas. 

The agreement, which Secretary of State Tony Blinken has described as “extraordinarily generous,” would also see the release of a number of Palestinian prisoners in Israel and a temporary cease-fire.

A number of Congressional Democrats have condemned the reports of possible ICC arrest warrants and vowed some type of U.S. response.

Sen. John Fetterman (D-PA) said such a move would be “a fatal blow to the judicial and moral standing of ICC to pursue this path against Israel,” writing on X, formerly Twitter, that he was calling on President Joe Biden “to intervene as part of the administration’s ongoing commitment to Israel.”

Rep. Brad Sherman (D-CA) and Rep. Ritchie Torres (D-NY) separately vowed that Congress would respond in kind if the ICC opted to target Israel.

“The ICC has failed to go after those responsible for hundreds of thousands of deaths in #Syria, #Sudan and #Tigray; going after Israel will turn the International Criminal Court into a kangaroo court,” Sherman wrote on X. “POTUS must condemn this & I know Congress will ensure consequences for such an absurd decision.”

“Even though Hamas is the undeniable  cause of the war in Gaza, the ICC might target Israel as though it were aggressor, as though Hamas had never committed October 7th,” Torres wrote on the platform. “The issuance of arrest warrants would represent the culmination of a long process of criminalizing the world’s only Jewish State. The weaponization of international law — in the service of terror — cannot be allowed to stand.”

Marc Rod, Lahav Harkov and Gabby Deutch contributed to this report.

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