On April 11, I wrote that despite President Joe Biden’s best efforts, famine had arrived in northern Gaza and that Israel was “using famine as a weapon” in violation of international law. I warned Biden that he risked being caught up as an accomplice if he did not do more to separate himself from Benjamin Netanyahu’s policies. Today, the chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, Karim Khan, requested warrants of arrest for Netanyahu and Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant for “causing extermination, causing starvation as a method of war including the denial of humanitarian relief supplies, deliberately targeting civilians in conflict.” Khan also requested warrants for Hamas leaders Yahya Sinwar, Mohammed Deif and Ismail Haniyeh for “extermination, murder, hostage-taking, rape, and sexual assault.”

Both Hamas and Israel, joined by the Biden administration,  complained about being the equivalence implied in being mentioned in the same breath as the other, but that’s immaterial. If the warrants are approved, the Hamas and Israeli leaders will be subject to arrest if they travel internationally. Khan explained that he issued repeated warnings to Israel that this day may come.

Since last year, in Ramallah, in Cairo, in Israel and in Rafah, I have consistently emphasised that international humanitarian law demands that Israel take urgent action to immediately allow access to humanitarian aid in Gaza at scale. I specifically underlined that starvation as a method of war and the denial of humanitarian relief constitute Rome Statute offences. I could not have been clearer.

As I also repeatedly underlined in my public statements, those who do not comply with the law should not complain later when my Office takes action. That day has come.;

As I noted in April, in the immediate aftermath of the October 7 massacres, “Biden warned Israel not to be consumed with rage and repeat the mistake America made in response to the 9/11 attacks.” I wrote that he had anticipated by several months that famine would come and had screamed “bloody murder” for Israel to do more to let in more aid while also announcing a plan to build a temporary port in Gaza. That port is now operational. Biden as well as Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer also made clear in that time period their belief that Israel should call quick elections to replace Netanyahu because he is not fit to lead.

These are important defenses against complicity in the Gazan famine and charges of using famine as a weapon. But they won’t quiet critics and they aren’t absolute defenses. It’s a tremendous challenge to stand by Israel as an ally when their government is run by a hard-right coalition of extremists that is heedless of warnings about violating international law against war crimes. Now the Biden administration is reduced to slamming the ICC, which it does primarily for domestic political reasons but secondarily because of their own potential liability.

Because there is no plan to rebuild Gaza or any hope for new Palestinian or non-Israeli political leadership in the Strip on the horizon, the situation will only get worse, with Israel increasingly held accountable for the conditions there. This is one reason why Benny Gantz, the only member of  the three-member Israeli war cabinet who is not facing ICC arrest, is threatening Netanyahu with a withdrawal from the coalition if he doesn’t produce a plan by June 8. Gantz says the plan should include “a governing body, overseen by the U.S., European and Arab parties, and unspecified Palestinians, to manage Gaza’s civilian affairs after the war.”

Netanyahu’s hard right coalition, however, wants Gaza under Israeli control in perpetuity, preferably with no Palestinians present. This is the context in which Biden is trying to negotiate an end to hostilities and a path forward. It’s a completely unenviable situation.



5 4 votes
Article Rating