Congress Threatens U.S. Retaliation if ICC Issues Israeli Arrests

House Speaker Mike Johnson calls the reported warrants "disgraceful" and "lawless" while urging the Biden administration to "immediately and unequivocally demand that the ICC stand down" and "use every available tool to prevent such an abomination."

Members of Congress have warned the International Criminal Court that arrest warrants for senior Israeli officials will result in US retaliation and legislation for it is already in the making, according to Axios

It cited two Israeli officials saying that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has asked US President Joe Biden to prevent the ICC from issuing arrest warrants for senior Israeli officials responsible for war crimes in the Gaza Strip.

A spokesperson for the White House National Security Council declined to comment on the contents of Netanyahu’s call with Biden, but told Axios, “As we have publicly said many times, the ICC has no jurisdiction in this situation and we do not support its investigation.”

At the same time, House Speaker Mike Johnson called the reported warrants “disgraceful” and “lawless”.

“If unchallenged by the Biden administration, the ICC could create and assume unprecedented power to issue arrest warrants against American political leaders, American diplomats, and American military personnel,” Johnson noted.

Reportedly, the names of Netanyahu, Security Minister Yoav Gallant, and Israeli occupation forces (IOF) Chief of Staff Herzi Halevi have been circled as suspects of war crimes that the ICC will look to prosecute.

He urged the Biden administration to “immediately and unequivocally demand that the ICC stand down” and “use every available tool to prevent such an abomination.”

House Foreign Affairs Committee Chair Michael McCaul (R-Texas) relayed to Axios his expectation of a House version of Sen. Tom Cotton’s (R-Ark.) bill to sanction ICC officials investigating the US and its allies, but said, “We hope it doesn’t come to that.”

Meanwhile, Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Calif.) called on the US to “think of whether we stay a signatory” to the Rome Statute which is the treaty that established the ICC, adding, “We have to think about talking to some of the countries that have ratified [the treaty] as to whether they want to support the organization.”

“I know Congress will ensure consequences for such an absurd decision,” Sherman wrote in a post on X.

Pro-“Israel” Rep. Ritchie Torres (D-N.Y.) and Sen. John Fetterman (D-Pa.) ICC with Torres, calling for “strong consequences from both Congress and the President.” On the other hand, Progressive Caucus Chair Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), a publicly vocal critic of “Israel” said, “The ICC is an independent body, and it needs to proceed with what they need to do.”

Another critic of “Israel”, Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Wisc.), said, “it’s not a matter for Congress to be telling them what to be doing.”

Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.) told Axios, “Why don’t we see what happens, and then we can evaluate based on whatever comes out,” and Rep. Dan Kildee (D-Mich.) voiced “concerns about the prosecution of the war” but “it’s always a good idea to get the facts before making a judgment.”

Earlier, US State Department deputy spokesperson Vedant Patel told reporters the Israeli military actions in Gaza are not comparable to Russian operations in Ukraine – referring to the arrest warrant against Russian President Vladimir Putin.

As Patel was questioned over the reason the US was against potential ICC legal action against Israeli officials, but supported ICC action against Russia, he said, “There is no moral equivalency between the kinds of things that we see [Putin] and the Kremlin undertake in comparison to the Israeli government.” 

He added that the US believes that the ICC does not have any jurisdiction over the Palestinian situation, pointing out that the United States is not a party to the treaty that established the ICC. 

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