‘Deeply Unhelpful’: UK Rejects International Court Arrest Warrant for Netanyahu

Rishi Sunak, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, welcomes Benjamin Netanyahu, Prime Mini
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The International Criminal Court seeking warrants for the arrest of Israel’s Prime Minister and Defence Secretary is “deeply unhelpful” and created a false moral equivalence between Israel and Hamas, British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has said.

The British government has criticised the International Criminal Court (ICC) for deciding to seek arrest warrants against Israeli figures including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, at the same time as leading Hamas figures. Speaking during a summit with the Austrian leadership in Vienna on Tuesday, UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said: “This is a deeply unhelpful development. Of course it is still subject to a final decision, but it remains deeply unhelpful nonetheless”.

He continued, reports the Daily Telegraph: “There is no moral equivalence between a democratic state exercising its lawful right to self-defence and the terrorist group Hamas. It is wrong to conflate and equivocate between those two different entities.”

Sunak’s remarks echo those of U.S. President Biden, who lifted a Trump executive order against the ICC, apparently reasoning the court’s anti-Israel bias could be resolved, and who said yesterday that the application for a warrant is “outrageous”. President Biden said: “Whatever this prosecutor might imply, there is no equivalence — none — between Israel and Hamas.  We will always stand with Israel against threats to its security.”

Underlining the British government position was cabinet minister Michael Gove on Tuesday who told The Times: “There’s a particular narrative that some are seeking to run at the moment which is intended to hold Israel to higher standards than anyone else — double standards — and to de-legitimise Israel for a host of reasons.” The court works to double standards, he said, seeking to arrest Netanyahu but not Syria’s leader Bashar al-Assad, who has waged war against his own territories in the course of a bitter civil war for years. 

Yet the British government is shortly up for renewal in the national general election, and according to polling seems likely to be replaced with a left-wing administration that could be called considerably less sympathetic towards Israel than the Conservatives are. Labour’s pick to be Britain’s next foreign minister David Lammy, a SOAS and Harvard-trained lawyer, used a legalistic approach to condone the ICC’s move against Israel, saying as a signatory of the court’s founding treaty, the UK has a “legal obligation” to fall in line.

He is reported to have said: “Labour believes that the UK and all parties to the Rome Statute have a legal obligation to comply with orders and warrants issued by the court. Democracies who believe in the rule of law must submit themselves to it.” Lammy further accused the Conservatives of being against “international rule of law” by criticising the ICC, which may be true given their glacially slow drift towards scepticism of Europe’s own international court, which was set up by the British to keep Europe under control, and is now being used against it.

Lammy’s interpretation of the law appears to clash with the British government’s own lawyers, however. On Monday an unnamed spokesman for the Prime Minister put their position in more detail, stating their belief the ICC doesn’t have the jurisdiction to issue an arrest warrant against Benjamin Netanyahu anyway, given Israel isn’t a party to the Rome Statute.

It was stated, per Reuters: “This action is not helpful in relation to reaching a pause in the fighting, getting hostages out or getting humanitarian aid in… The UK, as with other countries, does not yet recognise Palestine as a state and Israel is not a state party to the Rome Statute”.



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