Netanyahu slams ICC’s ‘audacious’ comparison of Hamas and IDF

Israeli leaders, from left to right, across the board condemn ICC prosecutor’s recommendation to arrest Netanyahu, Gallant, and Hamas leaders


Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during a ceremony marking Holocaust Remembrance Day at the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial in Jerusalem on May 5, 2024.

Israeli leaders across the political spectrum responded with outrage to an announcement on Monday by the International Criminal Court’s Chief Prosecutor Karim Khan that he would seek arrest warrants for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Yoav Gallant – alongside Hamas leaders – on charges of war crimes. 

“Prosecutor in The Hague, with what audacity do you dare compare the monsters of Hamas to the soldiers of the IDF, the most moral army in the world?!” Netanyahu said in a statement. “With what audacity you compare between the Hamas that murdered, burned, butchered, raped, and kidnapped our brothers and sisters, and the IDF soldiers who are fighting a just war that is unparalleled in morality that is unmatched.”

“As the prime minister of Israel, I reject with disgust the Hague prosecutor’s comparison between democratic Israel and the mass murderers of Hamas. This is a complete distortion of reality,” he added, going on to charge that, “this is exactly what the new anti-Semitism looks like, it has moved from the campuses in the West to the court in The Hague.”

“I promise you one thing – the attempt to tie our hands will fail … We will overthrow the evil rule of Hamas and achieve complete victory,” Netanyahu vowed.

In an interview with CNN’s Christiane Amanpour published on Monday, Khan revealed that he would ask the world’s top criminal court to issue warrants for the arrest of Israel’s top political leaders, as well as Yahya Sinwar, who heads the Iranian-backed terror group Hamas in Gaza, Mohammed Deif, leader of Hamas’ al-Qassam Brigades military wing, and Hamas’ Qatar-based leader Ismail Haniyeh for war crimes and crimes against humanity over the Oct. 7 terror attacks on southern Israel and Israel’s response in Gaza. 

Gallant took longer to respond, sending out a statement on Tuesday highlighting that Israel is engaged in “fighting against a brutal terrorist organization, Hamas – an enemy that conducted atrocities against Israeli children, women, and men… it also uses its own people as human shields.”

“The IDF is fighting in accordance with international law, while taking unprecedented measures to facilitate humanitarian aid,” Gallant emphasized. “The State of Israel is proud of its soldiers and commanders, and the values they represent.”

“The attempt made by the ICC Prosecutor Karim Khan to turn things around will not succeed – the parallel he has drawn between Hamas and the State of Israel is despicable,” the minister continued. 

Gallant said that Khan’s “attempt to deny the State of Israel the right to defend herself and ensure the release of the hostages held in Gaza, must be rejected explicitly.”

“The prosecutor’s position to apply for arrest warrants is in itself a crime of historic proportion to be remembered for generations,” war cabinet minister Benny Gantz, chairman of The National Unity Party, said in a statement. On Saturday, Gantz blasted Netanyahu for lacking a plan for after the war and threatened to leave the war cabinet.

“The State of Israel is waging one of the just wars fought in modern history following a reprehensible massacre perpetrated by Hamas terrorists on Oct. 7,” Gantz continued.“While Israel fights with one of the strictest moral codes in history, while complying with international law and boasting a robust independent judiciary – drawing parallels between the leaders of a democratic country determined to defend itself from despicable terror to leaders of a blood-thirsty terror organization is a deep distortion of justice and blatant moral bankruptcy.”

Israel’s opposition leader, Yair Lapid, who has also been highly critical of Netanyahu and his government’s actions, particularly in recent weeks, called the ICC’s intentions, “a complete moral failure.” 

“We cannot accept the outrageous comparison between Netanyahu and Sinwar,” he said. “We will not remain silent.”

Israeli President Isaac Herzog said the ICC prosecutor’s announcement was “beyond outrageous and shows the extent to which the international judicial system is in danger of collapsing.”

“Taken in bad faith, this one-sided move represents a unilateral political step that emboldens terrorists around the world and violates all the basic rules of the court according to the principle of complementarity and other legal norms,” he wrote in a post on X. “Hamas’ leaders are oppressive dictators guilty of launching mass murder, mass rape, and mass kidnappings of men, women, children and babies.”

“Any attempt to draw parallels between these atrocious terrorists and a democratically elected government of Israel – working to fulfill its duty to defend and protect its citizens entirely in adherence to the principles of international law – is outrageous and cannot be accepted by anyone,” Herzog added. 

Foreign Minister Israel Katz, a Likud member, called the prosecutor general’s decision “scandalous” and a direct attack on the victims of Oct.7, as well as those who are still being held as hostages by Hamas in Gaza. 

“While the murderers and rapists of Hamas continue to commit crimes against humanity against our brothers and sisters, the Attorney General mentions the Prime Minister and the Defense Minister of the State of Israel in the same breath alongside those abominable Nazi monsters,” Katz said in a statement. “It is a historical disgrace that will be remembered forever.” 

Katz said he had already established a task force within his ministry to fight the decision and any fallout from the unprecedented move. 

Likud lawmakers circulated a resolution among other Zionist parties in the Knesset stating that “Israel is fighting a just war against a criminal terrorist organization. The IDF is the most moral army in the world. Our soldiers fight bravely and morally … in accordance with international law like no army ever has. 

“The outrageous comparison … between the heads of the Hamas terror organization is a historic crime and a clear expression of antisemitism,” the resolution states. “Eighty years after the Holocaust,  no one will tie the hands of the Jewish state [to prevent it from] defending itself.”

Labor leader Merav Michaeli said that Israel “cannot accept” the ICC prosecutor’s recommendation to issue warrants putting “Israel’s leadership in the same line as a cruel and degenerate terrorist organization.” She also said that “this stain comes in a long line of unprecedented diplomatic failures” on Netanyahu’s watch. 

Alan Baker, the director of the Institute for Contemporary Affairs at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, told Jewish Insider that because Israel is not party to the Rome Statute, which governs the ICC, the court has no jurisdiction over Israel or its actions. 

However, Baker, Israel’s former ambassador to Canada, said that if the court does issue the requested arrest warrants, “it could mean that Netanyahu and Gallant can’t visit countries that are party to the statute.”

“It does seem to me to be highly unlikely and even far-fetched that the British or French or Italians [who are party to the Rome Statute] will go so far as to arrest the prime minister of Israel,” he added. 

Baker explained that the court’s recognition of Palestinian sovereignty over the territories was “based on their manipulated and fraudulent claim to statehood recognized by the U.N., despite the fact that a Palestinian state does not exist and in the Oslo accords the Palestinians agreed that the status of the territories would be resolved only through negotiation.” 

He said that the ICC prosecutor was “just repeating the U.N. fiction as to the existence of a Palestinian state, despite the fact that he knows that no such state exists.”

The Families Forum, which represents some of the relatives of those still being held hostage by Hamas in Gaza, applauded the prosecutors’ decision to request arrest warrants against senior Hamas officials but said in a statement that it is “not comfortable with the equivalence drawn between Israel’s leadership and the terrorists of Hamas.”

“We believe the way to prove this distinction to the world is by immediately entering into negotiations that will free the hostages – the living for rehabilitation, and the deceased for burial,” the statement said. 

Anne Herzberg, a Legal Advisor to the non-profit NGO Monitor, said that she was not surprised by the ICC prosecutor’s intention to seek arrest warrants against Israeli officials. 

“For years now, the office has flouted the Rome Statute to improperly target Israelis, despite the lack of jurisdiction, due to intense lobbying by a group of European government-funded terror operatives masquerading as human rights groups,” she said. “It is abhorrent that the court has chosen to target those defending against the Oct. 7 Hamas massacre based on false claims and invented definitions of law.” 

“While it is unlikely any Israeli would ever appear before this kangaroo court, this case represents yet again the exploitation of international institutions in service of malevolent agendas,” Herzberg, author of “NGO Lawfare: Exploitation of Courts in the Arab-Israeli Conflict,” said. “Prosecutor Kahn and the ICC should be expending their resources to go after Iran and its genocidal terror proxies Hamas, Hezbollah, and the Houthis, rather than helping them attack the only democracy in the Middle East.”

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