Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has urged US President Joe Biden to maintain the sanctions on the International Criminal Court (ICC) imposed by former President Donald Trump.
Trump escalated hostilities against the ICC in June by authorising new sanctions against prosecutors and officials in The Hague. Trump’s act was intended to send a warning about the court’s probe into allegations of crimes against humanity committed by American servicemen and women, and intelligence officers, including torture and rape in Afghanistan and at CIA interrogation facilities abroad, during the near two-decade campaign against the Taliban.
The ICC also concluded that it has jurisdiction over crimes committed in the occupied Palestinian territories, a determination that could see Israeli officials being prosecuted for war crimes. Israel has since spearheaded an international campaign to block any future ICC investigation into such crimes.
Netanyahu is said to have asked Biden to keep the sanctions intact during their first phone call last week, according to Axios. Israel is very concerned that any investigation could lead to international arrest warrants being issued against Israeli officials and army officers and could boost BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) campaigns against the occupation state.
“In my phone call with President Biden, we talked about our moral obligation to protect our troops against those who are trying to defame their morality with false claims,” explained Netanyahu.
The issue was also raised in a recent phone call between Israeli Minister of Foreign Affairs Gabi Ashkenazi and his Washington counterpart Antony Blinken. According to Axios, Israeli diplomats made the case that even if the new administration disagrees with the sanctions, it should keep them in place as leverage to be used against the ICC.
Meanwhile, a new prosecutor has been elected by the ICC to replace Fatou Bensouda in June. The selection of British barrister Karim Khan has raised doubts about whether or not the ICC’s probe into Israel’s actions in the occupied Palestinian territories will ever take place.