House passes GOP bill to sanction ICC as it seeks arrest warrant for Netanyahu

Written by on June 5, 2024

Photo by Mike Kline (notkalvin)/Getty Images

(WASHINGTON) — The U.S. House on Tuesday passed a Republican-led bill that would impose sanctions on the International Criminal Court after its top prosecutor recommended war crimes charges against Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

The legislation passed in a 247 to 155 vote. Forty-two Democrats crossed party lines to help Republicans pass the bill despite opposition from the White House.

The Illegitimate Court Counteraction Act, led by Texas Republican Rep. Chip Roy, would require mandatory sanctions and visa restrictions on any foreign person working or providing funds for the ICC in prosecutions against the U.S., Israel or any other U.S. ally that is not party to the ICC.

The vote came weeks after the international court’s chief prosecutor, Karim Khan, filed applications for warrants of arrest for Netanyahu and Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant.

Khan said in a statement their office had “reasonable grounds to believe” the two leaders bore responsibility for “war crimes and crimes against humanity” committed in Gaza. Khan said the alleged crimes included starvation of civilians, intentionally directing attacks against a civilian population and more.

Khan also requested arrest warrants for Hamas leaders Yehya Sinwar, Mohammed Deif and Ismail Haniyeh. The prosecutor alleged the three were responsible for the deaths of hundreds of Israeli civilians and included charges of taking hostages, rape, extermination and more.

Netanyahu told ABC News’ Good Morning America that the court’s plan was “absurd” and a “hit job.”

“These are fallacious charges,” Netanyahu said. “I think that they cast a terrible stain on the ICC.”

The ICC action prompted condemnation from both political parties. President Joe Biden specifically denounced the ICC’s request for warrants against Israeli leaders and said there was “no equivalence between Israel and Hamas.”

Sanctioning the court was initially designed to be bipartisan, Speaker Mike Johnson said weeks ago.

The White House said Monday it was “deeply concerned” about the ICC actions but that, ultimately, the Biden administration “strongly opposes” the legislation.

“There are more effective ways to defend Israel, preserve U.S. positions on the ICC, and promote international justice and accountability, and the Administration stands ready to work with Congress on those options,” a statement from the White House read, though it did not include a veto threat.

Speaker Johnson, at his weekly press conference earlier Tuesday, said they “cannot allow” the ICC action to stand.

“President Biden ought to recognize the danger of letting them pursue these illegitimate investigations and the need to sanction the ICC in response,” Johnson said.

The United States does not recognize the jurisdiction of the ICC, and neither does Israel.

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