Germany Urges Caution While France Throws Support Behind ICC Arrest Warrants For Israel Leaders

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France “supports the International Criminal Court”, saying it had previously warned Israel about “strict compliance with international humanitarian law,” in the wake of the ICC announcement that it would be seeking an arrest warrant for Benjamin Netanyahu.

The International Criminal Court (ICC) has said it is seeking arrest warrants for several leading Israeli figures including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and their defence minister. In a break with the United States and the United Kingdom, both of which decried the move, France says it is standing behind the court. But there is no European solidarity on the matter, seemingly, as neighbouring Germany — the other pole of power in the European Union — is far more circumspect, asserting Israel has the right to self-defence.

The French diplomatic service responded to the news the ICC was seeking to issue warrants against both Israeli and Hamas figures — creating a moral equivalence between the parties, critics say — by citing the court’s independence as inviolable. They said, Le Figaro recorded: “France supports the International Criminal Court, its independence, and the fight against impunity in all situations.”

France previously condemned the Hamas attack against Israel on October 7th, the communique said, but it ultimately concluded that Israel had failed to heed France’s instructions on how to fight the war.

It continued: “France has been warning for many months about the imperative of strict compliance with international humanitarian law and in particular about the unacceptable nature of civilian losses in the Gaza Strip and insufficient humanitarian access”.

The statement strongly contradicts the British position, for instance, which called the ICC’s move “deeply unhelpful”, and questioned whether it was even legal. Downing Street said, for instance, that it does not recognise Palestine as a state and Israel isn’t a signatory to the Rome Statute which recognises the ICC anyway, so the question of jurisdiction remains.

France’s neighbour Germany — in normal times a steadfast defender of Israel, and especially because of the nation’s Holocaust history — didn’t go as far as Britain to outright dismiss the ICC development, but was circumspect and challenged the court to produce evidence.

“The allegations made by the chief prosecutor are serious and must be substantiated,” Berlin said according to Die Welt.

Germany also asserted its position that Israel has the right to self-defence “against murderous attacks” under international law and that it expected the court to “take significant account of the fact that Israel is a democratic constitutional state with a strong, independent judiciary”.

Under the Trump Presidency, the United States had levied sanctions against the ICC, which had claimed jurisdiction over U.S. soldiers fighting in the war against terrorism. These sanctions were revoked by Biden, in the apparent hope that it would lead to rapprochement. However, on Tuesday, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the U.S. would consider bringing back the measures in response to the “profoundly wrongheaded decision” against Israel.


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