GOP Senators Warn ICC: “Target Israel, and We Will Attack You”

On Monday, 12 Republican senators sent a letter to Karim Khan, chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, warning him that if he issued arrest warrants for senior Israeli officials, he would face sanctions.

Karim Khan

Led by Senator Tom Cotton, Senator Mitch McConnell (Minority Leader), Rick Scott, Tim Scott, Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio signed the letter, which explicitly threatened the ICC prosecutor if he chose to take legal action against Israeli officials.

The letter said: “Such actions are unlawful and lack a legal basis and if carried out will result in severe sanctions against you and your institution.”

Israeli officials at risk of legal action by the ICC include Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Defense Minister Yoav Gallant and IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi.

“The ICC seeks to punish Israel for taking legitimate self-defense actions against their Iran-backed aggressors,” the letter continued, noting that Khan visited Israel in December 2023 at the request of families of hostages held by Hamas. After visiting Israeli communities devastated by the carnage wrought by Palestinians, he said he had “a simple message”

“My office is here to ensure that the protection of the law is felt by all.

The letter continued.

“In fact, in your own words, you have witnessed scenes of calculated brutality carried out by Hamas in Israel,” the letter said. “After the October 7 attack. These arrest warrants would align the ICC with the largest state sponsor of terrorism and its proxy. To be clear, there is no moral equivalence between Hamas terrorism and Israel’s justified response.”

The senators noted that the ICC charter prohibited the court from issuing arrest warrants against Israelis.

“The ICC is also prohibited by its charter from taking action in any event unless the relevant government is unwilling or unable to provide its own oversight. You yourself said that ‘Israel has trained lawyers to advise commanders and has a robust system designed to ensure compliance with international humanitarian law.’ By issuing arrest warrants, you would be questioning the legitimacy of Israel’s laws, legal system and democratic form of government.”

The letter challenged the ICC and accused it of hypocrisy and double standards.

“Issuing arrest warrants for Israel’s leaders would not only be unjustified, it would also expose the hypocrisy and double standards of your organization,” the letter said. “Your office has not issued any arrest warrants against Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei or any other Iranian official, Syrian President Bashar Al Assad, or any other Syrian official, or Hamas leader Ismail Haniya or any other Hamas official. Nor have you issued an arrest warrant against the genocidal Secretary General of the People’s Republic of China, Xi Jinping, or any other Chinese official.”

The senators also challenged the ICC’s jurisdiction. Neither Israel nor the US are members of the ICC, although the Palestinian territories were granted member status in 2015.

“Finally, neither Israel nor the United States are members of the ICC and are therefore outside the presumed jurisdiction of your organization. If you issue an arrest warrant against Israeli leaders, we will interpret it not only as a threat to the sovereignty of Israel, but also to the sovereignty of the United States. Our country has shown in the American Service Members Protection Act how far we will go to protect that sovereignty.”

“The United States will not tolerate politicized ICC attacks on our allies, targeting Israel, and we will target you if you move moving forward. “With the actions outlined in the report, we will take steps to end all U.S. support for the ICC, sanction your employees and associates, and deny you and your families entry into the United States.”

“You have been warned,” the letter concluded.

The letter was signed by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky and by Senators Tom Cotton of Arkansas, Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee, Katie Boyd Britt of Alabama and Ted Budd of Northern California; Kevin Cramer of North Dakota; Ted Cruz of Texas; Bill Hagerty of Tennessee; Pete Ricketts of Nebraska; Marco Rubio and Rick Scott from Florida; and Tim Scott of South Carolina.

The Biden administration has said it does not support an ICC war crimes investigation against Israel, but it has not committed to imposing sanctions against the court if arrest warrants are issued against Israeli officials.

The ICC responded to the senators’ letter Tweet.

“The Office is committed to working constructively with all stakeholders where such dialogue is consistent with its mandate under the Rome Statute to act independently and impartially,” the ICC Office of the Prosecutor tweeted.

“However, that independence and impartiality are undermined when individuals threaten to retaliate against the Court or against the Court’s staff if the Office, in fulfillment of its mandate, takes decisions on investigations or matters within its jurisdiction,” the statement continued .

“Such threats, even if not responded to, may also constitute an offense against the administration of justice under Art. 70 of the Rome Statute.”

The issue was preceded by legislation proposed last February by twelve senators, led by Representative Tom Cotton, Senators Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Marco Rubio (R-Florida), who introduced a bill that would require the U.S. to investigate do or prosecute American forces and officials and allies who do not recognize the authority of the ICC, such as Israel.

The bill proposed to sanction and revoke the visas of any ICC employee or associate involved in investigating, prosecuting, or assisting in the investigation or prosecution of current or former U.S. soldiers or officials or current or former officials or troops of an ally of the United States. that does not recognize the authority of the ICC. The bill also proposed revoking the visas of all ICC employees, all individuals acting on behalf of the ICC, and the immediate family members of those sanctioned for investigating U.S. and allied forces and officials.