Israel is worried that the ICC will issue an arrest warrant for Prime Minister Netanyahu
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at a cabinet meeting in Tel Aviv on December 31, 2023. Photo: AFP

The Israeli government held an emergency meeting to discuss a response plan when worried that the International Criminal Court would issue an arrest warrant for Prime Minister Netanyahu and the military leadership.

The Israeli Cabinet and a number of government legal advisors held an emergency meeting at the Prime Minister’s Office earlier this week amid concerns that the International Criminal Court (ICC) would issue an arrest warrant for Mr. Benjamin Netanyahu and a number of politicians and officers. Israeli military officials, Channel 12, and Times of Israel reported on April 19.

Sources familiar with the matter said the meeting took place on April 16, right after Tel Aviv received a warning that a series of arrest warrants related to Israel’s campaign in the Gaza Strip could be announced by the ICC in the near future.

Israeli media said three ministers attended the meeting in Jerusalem including Foreign Minister Israel Katz, Justice Minister Yariv Lenin, and Minister of Strategic Affairs Ron Dermer.

Tel Aviv believes that the ICC will rely on the humanitarian crisis in the Gaza Strip and a series of accusations from many countries that Israel violates international law and the Geneva Convention on conduct with civilians and prisoners of war as the basis for its decision arrest warrants.

Foreign Minister Israel Katz confirmed on April 18 that the cabinet had discussed the possibility of the ICC targeting leaders of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF). Israeli officials agreed to engage with the ICC and “politicians with diplomatic influence” to prevent the court from announcing the arrest warrant.

Israel is not a member of the ICC and does not recognize the jurisdiction of the court based in The Hague, Netherlands.

In 2019, the ICC announced an investigation into allegations that Israel committed war crimes in the 2014 campaign against Hamas, the settlement program in the West Bank and Jerusalem, as well as the campaign to suppress Palestinian protesters on the Gaza Strip border. The ICC began an investigation in 2021, despite criticism from Tel Aviv, and has not yet reached a conclusion.

South Africa in December 2023 sued Israel at the United Nations’ International Court of Justice (ICJ) for allegedly committing “genocide” against Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.

The South African government argued that Israel had violated international law by carrying out and failing to prevent actions “aimed at destroying Palestinians in Gaza”, saying that “the intention to destroy Gaza is harbored at the highest levels of State of Israel”.

The ICJ on January 26 issued a statement demanding that Israel immediately fulfill its humanitarian obligations in the Gaza Strip but refused to consider whether the country committed genocide or not. The ICJ ruling also requires Israel to “prevent and punish” any act of inciting genocide, and must fully report war developments.